a balanced plate with room for dessert


Really Freakin Awesome Vegan Oatmeal Cookies (aka Vegan Turtle Oatmeal Cookies)

Happy 2014 to everyone! I hope you all had a relaxing holiday season filled with love, food and lots of time with family and friends.
DSD Christmas |
With the new year comes many resolutions. Usually resolutions revolve around eating better and working out. And they usually end a few weeks into the new year.
I’m hoping that 2014 will be a year of better health for me – less visits to the doctor, less stomach issues, and no more running injuries. I’m not going to deprive myself of foods that I love (cookies!) or force myself to run through an injury. I made many changes in 2013 that I think will lead to a much happier 2014 – I left a stressful job and started a new adventure in a city that I adore. I started doing yoga to reduce running injuries. I went dairy-free to make my body happy.
Really Freakin Awesome Vegan Oatmeal Cookies (aka Vegan Turtle Oatmeal Cookies}  |
I hope in 2014 I can continue to cultivate my dairy-free cooking skills. I am so thankful for the dairy-free bloggers out there that have provided me with endless recipes to try out and make my transition into the dairy-free world a little bit easier. I’ve added a dozen vegan/dairy-free/special diet blogs to my blog reader and once in a while a stumble across a recipe that really catches me.
This time, it was Angela over at Oh She Glows and her vegan turtle cookies. I saw the cookies on her blog and they were baking away in my oven not 24 hours later.
I am obsessed with them. My family is also obsessed. I honestly cannot get enough of these cookies. I was a bit disappointed at first because they didn’t seem “turtle-y” at all. But I quickly got over that because these cookies are just downright delicious. So I think in this case turtle = really freakin’ awesome. So I guess in my house I’ll call these the “really freakin’ awesome vegan oatmeal cookies”.
Really Freakin Awesome Vegan Oatmeal Cookies (aka Vegan Turtle Oatmeal Cookies}  |
Vegan Turtle Oatmeal Cookies
yields about 20 cookies
1 3/4 cups pecan halves
2 cups rolled oats, divided
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup unpacked dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons almond milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pecans onto a lined baking sheet and toast for 8 – 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Place toasted pecans into a food processor with 1 cup of the rolled oats and process until coarsley chopped, being careful not to over process into a fine powder.
  3. Pour the pecan/oat mixture into a large bowl and add in the remaining 1 cup rolled oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together maple syrup, melted coconut oil, almond milk, and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  5. Place dates onto a cutting board and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon flour. Dice dates, sprinkling wth more flour as needed to prevent dates from sticking to each other and the knife.
  6. Fold dates and chocolate chips into dough and mix until well distributed.
  7. Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls and press it between the palms of your hands to flatten. Place cookie onto a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies a couple inches apart.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until cookies are golden browned on the bottom. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
recipe very slightly adapted from Oh She Glows 

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Vegan Ginger Molasses Cookies

These cookies are a soft and chewy and so dang good. Rolling them in sugar before baking gives them a slightly crunchy outside. It’s a step that’s not really necessary, but very highly recommended. They have a nice amount of spice to them and are guaranteed to make your home smell a-ma-zing. Vegans and meat-eaters alike will love these cookies.

Vegan Ginger Molasses Cookies |

Vegan Ginger Molasses Cookies
makes 2 dozen cookies

1/3 cup vegan butter substitute (I used Smart Balance)
2 tablespoons stevia
1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together butter substitute, stevia, sugar, molasses, vanilla and water until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to firm up. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

recipe adapted from Lunch Box Bunch


Dairy-Free German Chocolate Cake Cookies

This past weekend was wonderful. It was a quiet weekend, but it was perfect. Mike got his wisdom teeth out (ouch!) and it snowed all day on Saturday so staying inside and vegging out was just what we needed. I shoveled for the first time in like… 5 years, and it was surprisingly relaxing. I ended up baking two types of cookies, some muffins, and made some soup. So, yeah, I would consider it a pretty successful weekend. To round it all out perfectly, I received a surprise early Christmas gift.

Dairy Free German Chocolate Cake Cookies |

I grabbed a package off our front stoop thinking they were the boots I had ordered. Then, I realized that the box was far too small to contain boots. And the package was sent from Amazon, not Macy’s. I ran inside and ripped it open. I pulled out a huge bag filled with Enjoy Life’s (dairy-free) mini chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.  Then I pulled out a cookbook I’ve been eyeing for a while – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the WorldThe entire time, I was babbling “What the…? Who sent this? Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!!” At the bottom of the box were two slips of paper. The first one – blank. The second one had the answer – the gift was from Ashley and Nick, some of our closest friends. It’s amazing how someone can make me so happy from the other side of the world.

dairy free baking |

After all this, I knew I had to use some of the chocolate chips. I settled on a recipe that had caught my eye last week – German Chocolate Cake Cookies from Food Network. These cookies were rich and chocolatey and captured all the goodness of German chocolate cake without being overly sweet.

Dairy-Free German Chocolate Cake Cookies |

Dairy Free German Chocolate Cake Cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup dairy-free butter substitute, softened (I used Smart Balance)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup stevia
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dairy free mini semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place coconut oil, butter substitute, brown sugar, and stevia in a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until well combined. Mix in eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients into butter mixture until well combined.
  4. Stir in mini chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans until evenly distributed.
  5. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until edges are firm. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Dairy Free Chocolate Chunk and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

The name of these cookies are a mouthful. The sight of these cookies is kind of atrocious… but they’re delish. And as a bonus, I got to try my hand at making my own chocolate chips! I haven’t had much luck finding dairy free chocolate chips. I saw some dairy free Guittard semisweet chocolate chips in a small town Walmart, of all places. I didn’t buy any because I was on a business trip and didn’t want to drag around chocolate chips and… well, because I’m an idiot. I figured I could go back to Appleton or Madison and pick some up. Wrong. Apparently dairy free chocolate chips are reserved for small, northern Wisconsin towns only. And not large cities.


I had some unsweetened chocolate bars in my baking supply stash and decided to make my own chocolate chunks out of the chocolate. They were super easy to make: melt ingredients, freeze, and break into pieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that the creator of these homemade chocolate chips warned her readers that they would most definitely turn any baked good into a mess. Whoops.

Even though the chips melted and made a spectacular river of chocolate over my Silpats and baking sheets, these cookies were fabulous. And the chocolate that stayed in the cookies was perfect. I guess I’ll be on the hunt for a more bakeable homemade chocolate chip. Or maybe Santa will bring me a very, very large box of dairy free Guittard chocolate chips.

dairy free chocolate chunk and walnut oatmeal cookies |

Dairy Free Chocolate Chunk and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
yields 2 dozen cookies

1/4 cup dairy free butter substitute
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dairy free dark chocolate chunks, recipe below
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until well combined and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and egg until well combined. Stir in flour and oats. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack to finish cooling.


recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Homemade Dark Chocolate Chunks
yields about 2 cups 

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons stevia powder

  1. In a microwaveable bowl, combine chocolate, coconut oil, and vanilla. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in stevia.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and pour chocolate on top. Use a spoon to smooth, being careful not to spread the mixture too thin. Freeze for about 30 minutes or until chocolate is hard. Break into chunks and use as desired.
  3. Keep leftovers in a freezer-safe covered container.

Note: I used Baker’s unsweetened chocolate in this. They don’t contain dairy, but the chocolate is made on equipment that also manufactures products containing milk.

recipe from Sugar Free Mom

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Dairy Free Iced Pumpkin Cookies

dairy-free iced pumpkin cookies |

Last week, my PCP suggested that I go 100% dairy free instead of just lactose-free. I’m happy to say that I made it through my first dairy-free holiday and business trip. My plates were a bit emptier this year, but I’m thankful for the food that I was able to eat. I got turkey and gravy thanks to my father-in-law, stuffing and kale thanks to my mom, and dessert thanks to me! I’ve just come back from a four day business trip in a small town. I love traveling for work, but being dairy-free definitely has its challenges when eating out. I’m blessed to live in Madison, a city that has a plethora of restaurants that can cater to special diets. Appleton has fewer restaurants. These little towns I’m staying in for work? Nothing. I’m relying on plain salads or, if I’m feeling adventurous, a plain chicken sandwich on a bun with some guacamole. After all, there’s only so much Subway a girl can eat! Even after all this, I end up getting “dairy-ed” once in a while. Not surprisingly, I’m more reluctant to eat out and to even eat food that family and friends cook.

I’m obsessively label-reading now and I’m doing my best to bring my safe foods with me so that I’m always guaranteed one thing to eat. My current favorite? These iced pumpkin cookies. They are ridiculous. I made a batch for Thanksgiving and they were inhaled by my family. I made a second batch a couple days later and ate all the cookies within a matter of days (with a little help from Mike). I plan on making some more this weekend. There’s no such thing as too many cookies, right?

dairy-free iced pumpkin cookies |

Dairy Free Iced Pumpkin Cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dairy-free butter substitute (I use Earth Balance)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon dairy-free butter substitute, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in pumpkin, egg and vanilla until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients until combined.
  4. Wet hands and roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dough will be very sticky. Place dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten dough slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.
  5. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. To make the icing: Place sugar, 2 tablespoons almond milk, melted butter, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add additional almond milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Drizzle cooled cookies with icing.

Storage tip: these cookies get really soft when stored in a covered container. I suggest placing them on a plate and lightly covering it with plastic wrap, not covering the cookies at all, or eating all the cookies in one sitting.

recipe adapted from


Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips and Walnuts

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips and Walnuts |

I thought spending nights away from Mike would be easy. Turns out, it’s not so easy. Especially when it comes to photographing food for the blog. It’s hard to bounce light, get a good angle, and take a decent photo with two hands. It’s even more frustrating when dealing with a rapidly setting sun. And it’s even worse when I accidentally (almost) drop the camera and smash my fingers really, really hard trying to catch it. And on top of all that, I was dealing with a tower of toppling cookies.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips and Walnuts |

The upside is that the toppling tower(s) of cookies got damaged and had to get eaten. Immediately. By me. Alone. Yikes. Because I’m pretty sure that cookies can get bruised just like apples can. I think I ate 8 cookies the night I took these pictures. I 10000% blame this on Mike not being around.

I can still remember the first time I had cinnamon chips. It was on a loaf of freshly-baked banana bread made by the production manager at my old job. And it blew my mind. I may or may not have eaten all the cinnamon chips off the top of the bread and brought the rest of it home to Mike.

Fast forward a year: I get Ashley’s blog Cheese Curd in Paradise for a vegetarian recipe swap. I see the pumpkin oatmeal cookies and every entrée on her blog is no longer a consideration. I really, really , really wanted to use cinnamon chips in this recipe. If cinnamon chips + banana = awesome, cinnamon chips + pumpkin = more awesome. Right? Right. These cookies are light and fluffy and the cinnamon chips and walnuts are a perfect complement to the pumpkin cookie base.

Please, go make these cookies now. Especially if you’ve never had cinnamon chips before. Because I don’t want you to end up like me – a girl who lived without cinnamon chips for 25 years. It’s a sad, empty life. Trust me.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips and Walnuts |

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips and Walnuts
makes 4 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in cinnamon chips and walnuts.
  4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes or until cookies are very lightly browned.
  5. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

recipe very slightly adapted from Cheese Curd in Paradise, originally from My Baking Addiction

Thanks again to Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting! Click on the link to check out the other delicious swap recipes!


Wisconsin Badger Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

These cookies were my first attempt at making sugar cookie cutouts and decorating with royal icing. I obviously have a few kinks to work out (hellooo messy piping!), but I think my cookies will start to look better with practice. Even though these cookies were time consuming, the end result was so worth it. I’ve got new decorating tips and cookie cutters on my wishlist now – I can’t wait to make more!

Wisconsin Badger Cookies {sugar cookie cut-outs with royal icing} |

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for one hour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Fit stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of the mixer and cream until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg and mix until well incorporated. Add in cream cheese and mix until well incorporated. Mix in vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add in one cup at a time to butter and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into 6 even balls. Keep dough in fridge until ready to roll out. Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll out into 1/4-inch thick. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters (I used a football, Motion W, and Bucky Badger).
  6. Place cut-outs onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 8 – 12 minutes or until dough is no longer shiny. You do not want the cookies to brown.
  7. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before carefully moving to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookies.
  8. Once completely cooled, store cookies in a tightly covered container until ready to decorate.

adapted from The Kitchn

Royal Icing

3/4 cup warm water
5 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 pound bag of powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

  1. Place warm water and meringue powder in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk for 30 seconds or until thick and frothy. Add in cream of tartar and whisk for 30 more seconds. Carefully add in all the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix the icing on low for 10 minutes. Alternately, whisk by hand for 10 full minutes or use a hand mixer for 10 minutes. Icing will be thick and creamy.
  3. Place plastic wrap directly onto icing in bowl and cover bowl with a slightly damp towel until ready to use.

recipe from Sweetopia

Now, on to decorating these cookies! I used three gel icing colors to make these cookies (black, brown, and red) and kept a portion of the icing white. After mixing the colors, I thinned my icing to a “10 second icing”. 10 second icing means that when I run a knife through the icing, the line that appears smooths out completely in 10 seconds. If it took longer than 10 seconds for the icing to disappear, I thinned the icing out with a couple drops of water at a time until the 10 second consistency was reached.

Wisconsin Badger Cookies {sugar cookie cut-outs with royal icing} |

For decorating, I used piping bags and #1, #1.5 and #2 tips.

Now for technique: I can’t even begin to explain the technique of outlining and flooding. I’m going to instead point you to Sweetopia’s really, really great post on cookie decorating tips. After you read through her post, read on to see how I timed out my decorating.

  • Day 1: outline and flood the cookies
    • Football: outline and flood in brown with #2 tip. Let dry 24 hours.
    • Motion W: outline and flood in red with #2 tip. Let dry 24 hours.
    • Bucky Badger: outline and flood Bucky’s face, hands, and legs in white with #1.5 tip. Let dry for 1 hour. Outline and flood Bucky’s shirt in red with #1.5 tip.
  • Day 2: detail work!
    • Football: pipe white details with #1.5 tip. Let dry 24 hours.
    • Bucky Badger: pipe black face details with #1 tip. Outline face, hands, and legs in black with #1 tip. Add black detailing to hands and legs with #1 tip. Pipe white stripes and W onto shirt with #1 tip. Let dry 24 hours.