Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi Internet, I didn't forget you. Finals just knocked any desire to write further right out of me. There will probably be another post tomorrow for New Year's, so that I have my resolutions/goals all written down to know how I failed a year from now. First though, cookies.

I lied. First for real, lemme tell you about SFF. Student Funded Fellowships are the way some first year students here at Michigan Law fund their summer jobs, if they're working at a public interest place. The org decides which students get the money based on factors like interest and how their summer job will fit into their future career, but of course they can only give out as much money as they have. They raise money throughout the school year in various ways: soliciting donations, when people shop on Amazon using this link, and the SFF Auction.

The auction is a lot of fun; each year they ply us with free booze and auction off donated items to people who have money. Professors and deans dance on tables (they get the free booze too), the admitted students there get an awesome view of the school, etc. There's also a silent auction, and that's where the cookies come in. Since I have a kitchen this year, I'll be donating an offer of baked goods. I figure I'll get more takers if I can advertise vegan baking as well as gluten-free. The problem is I've never done that. The big trick is replacing the eggs, so I turned to the great Google to see what I could do.

Apparently banana is a great replacement for eggs, as long as you don't mind the flavor of banana. Being rather fond of the combination of chocolate & banana, I decided to break out my my favorite cookie recipe. Aside from being delicious, these cookies are very easily adaptable for whatever chocolatey cookie I want. The cookies turned out fantastically, and I've given the adapted recipe below. It's halved because nobody else is back in Ann Arbor yet, and there's no way I'm eating four dozen cookies on my own. Also, if you just want the banana taste you can of course use regular butter and not check if your chocolate chips are vegan.

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes

1/2 cup softened margarine (I used Fleischmann's soybean-based margarine, but any vegan version will do)
1/4 cup banana (about 1/2 banana, depending on the size of the fruit)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour (or 1 cup gluten free flour + 1/4 tsp xanthan gum if your gf flour doesn't have it)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (make sure these are vegan--check for milk products)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, blend margarine, sugar, banana, and vanilla together until fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients in with the wet ones until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Felicitations in Anticipation of a Generic Winter Holiday

It's been a while since I've been excited about Christmas. I imagine it's partly due to being a horrible godless monster and partly due to losing the excitement of receiving presents under a tree as I've grown older. These days the joy comes mostly from the fact that Christmas means the semester's over.

This year...I'm still not really excited about Christmas. I am, however, excited about something Christmas related. I'm a member of the forums over at Something Awful, and this year I'm participating in a forums-based Secret Santa. That's right: I get to bake for the Internet!

This may or may not be an accurate representation of who I'm baking for.

Well, at least my original plan was just to bake for my Santee. Then he had to go and have two small children, one of whom is a baby. She probably can't have cookies. Luckily, I live in a college town, with easy access to Michigan-branded stuffed animals.

I think the little wolverine is the cutest stuffed animal I've seen in a while. All week, certainly.

Then it turned out his wife is a law student, and as a fellow law student I have to encourage her to forget she learned everything first semester 1L. Luckily mini-bottles make this much easier. They all ended up individually wrapped and labeled as live bees, because of the buzz.

I'm most worried about the cookies, though. I'm trying out two new recipes, which I'm liking so far. They are these oatmeal white chocolate chip & these old German honey cookies. However, it's kind of nerve-wracking to be baking for complete strangers who may or may not like what I send them. Am I that confident in my baking abilities? (The answer is yes, but that may change after they get them.) I'm excited to be inflicting my baking on someone new, especially with new recipes.

I'm also kind of excited to see what my Santa will send me. I've been told it's on the way, so we'll see.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Omissions & Easy Anger

I was thinking I would make my second post a reflection on working with MiUI this semester, since it's been interesting in a way if not exactly satisfying. Then this morning Wonkette posted something interesting regarding the lifting of an injunction preventing Boston cops from removing Occupy Boston.

The thing that caught my eye was what the blogger called the creepy stand-out line: “Little in the way of expression is outlawed in the United States Constitution, but an act which incites forceful response is unlikely to pass as express speech.” That sure is an awful line, which made me think there had to be more context. I read the opinion itself, and there is indeed something more. There's a missing word that is just a wee bit important. What it actually says is “Little in the way of expression is outlawed in the United States Constitution, but an act which incites a lawful forceful response is unlikely to pass as express speech.” P. 14, emphasis added. The blog Wonkette links as a source made the same omission.

That little word, lawful, changes the impact of the quote just a bit. It helps give meaning to Judge McIntyre's entire opinion; her conclusion is that the occupation itself is not protected speech, but the living activities the occupiers are using to express their idea that an egalitarian society away from our corporate overlords is possible are. You can take issue with her conclusion that the two are separable, since the protected expression is somewhat lacking without the occupation. You can argue all day long about what lawful force is; people have, continue to do so, and will until human beings are no longer capable of force. If you're going to be outraged, though, at least be outraged about the right thing.

Normally this is the sort of thing where I'd just move past it or maybe comment noting the error, depending on if I felt like registering. This struck a nerve though. It's just such an easy thing to check; failure to do so is the sort of thing people you expect from places like Fox. It's kind of symbolic of one of the problems with the national discourse: going for the easy anger to get people on your side, regardless of accuracy. It just doesn't help.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

So, way back in August I decided I wanted to make some banana bread. As I recall, it was the very first thing I baked in my new place. I was thinking then that I wanted to start a baking blog (which I never really did), so I took some pictures.

banana bread ingredients

Ooh, ingredients. I can't find the recipe I think I used now, but this one from SASEIGEL on allrecipes looks about right.

The bread was pretty simple to make, since I had everything on hand. Never remembering to eat the bananas I buy turned out for the best. The trickiest bit was figuring out how to chop the pecans. I don't have a food processor, I didn't have a rolling pin at the time, and most of my stuff was in boxes. Luckily the constitution saved the day:
Smashing pecans

The finished product was so good. It reminded me of these mini banana nut loaves my mom used to buy when she was a lifeguard at the lake during the summer, as a snack for those of us who accompanied her. I think they were Little Debbie? Mine was better though.

finished banana bread

Unfortunately I haven't taken pictures of anything else I've baked this semester. I want to try to make a gingerbread house over the break though. If I do, I'll be sure to post it!