Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (and a Few Food Blogs)

By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

Vegan chocolate chip cookies: Pumpkin variation
No, this is not a food blog – but when I made these cookies last week, I could not help but share them. Food blogs, after all, are what introduced me to the blogging world. They’re like our surrogate parents and grandparents when neither are available to call for a recipe. They also form these wonderful online communities as people share recipes, meal ideas, and valuable information about food in general. I love food bloggers that not only share recipes, but also teach me new things. The first food blogger I started following is Heba Saleh’s My Life in a Pyramid. Her blog not only includes exciting, healthy recipes (like this creamy 10 minute chocolate pudding with avocados), but also shares valuable information about organic and healthy eating.

Cooking and baking can be processes of reflection and community. I have a friend who meditates on how the process of baking her holiday sugar cookies reflects her faith as she bakes, and has shared these reflections with me in addition to a delicious box of cookies. The holidays in particular bring about the communal aspect of food, not just because we gather together to enjoy our meals and share our sweets, but also because we are often cooking and baking traditional recipes from generations before us, linking us not just to each other, but to our pasts. 

This is why I love MidEats, a blog full of amazing recipes, instructions, and histories for traditional Middle Eastern foods, some with variations to make them more healthful, such as this healthier Egyptian Koshary recipe. Faith Gorsky also shares some amazing Middle Eastern and fusion recipes on An Edible Mosaic, such as this pumpkin and cheese spiced bread. Eating healthy can get expensive, which is why I follow Stacy Makes Cents, who posts about eating good food on a budget, as well as other ways of saving money. I love her slow-cooker recipes, such as (believe it or not), this Crock-Pot Honey Spiced Latte.

Vegan cookies: Double chocolate pumpkin
 Now, the recipe, which I got from Eating Bird Food, at I made them first exactly as the recipe described, and I found them tasty but a little bit too chewy. My toddler did not like them much the first time, but loved them at the second, third, and fourth try (described below). My husband preferred the banana variation.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies: banana variation
The best part about this recipe are its healthy ingredients: pumpkin (or banana), ground flaxseed, coconut oil, old-fashioned oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, chocolate chips – all of these foods have wonderful health properties. I’ve linked them to some articles and blog posts that further describe their benefits. These cookies are not a health food, but because the recipe includes whole grains and fruit, one or two are quite satisfying. So you’ll enjoy a treat and yet not wipe out the whole cookie jar. The second best part is that they are very easy to make. My toddler helped me bake them. Tell me what you think!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat, but you can use all purpose flour as well)
½ cup old fashioned oats (3/4 cup if you are using the banana variation)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt (if you do not have any, a little bit less table salt will do)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (for double chocolate version)
¾ cup of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling. If using the banana variation, use ¾ cups mashed bananas)
1 cup sugar (3/4 cup for the banana variation)(I used organic, pure cane sugar. I don’t suggest using a liquid form of sugar like maple syrup or molasses – the cookies were too gooey when I tried them that way)
¼ cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted (add extra if using the double chocolate pumpkin variation)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (or more) vegan chocolate chips

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2.       Stir together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cocoa powder for double chocolate pumpkin variation)
3.       Mix together wet ingredients (pumpkin, coconut oil, flaxseed and vanilla) in a separate mixing bowl.
4.       Combine wet and dry ingredients.
5.       Stir in chocolate chips and mix well.
6.       Drop rounded tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet (or roll them with your hands if you are baking the pumpkin or double chocolate pumpkin variation)
7.       Bake for 25-30 minutes (oven times will vary)
8.       Completely cool before eating.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Respond with Love, not Fear

By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

After contemplating my evening with my toddler and deciding he was having too much screen time this winter, I resolved to try to take him for a walk with me in the morning, to connect with him and enjoy some much needed fresh air.

And then I got the phone call. A young woman from my church congregation was hit by a car while crossing the street, and instantly killed.

After some time weeping from the shock, and then mourning for her and her family’s pain, my gut reaction, of course, was to look at my sound asleep children and vow to never let them out of the house again. 

Fear characterized my response, and I knew right away it was wrong. It brought to memory my husband’s words to me, when he saw me curled up on our sofa in tears after hearing the news of the Newtown massacre.

“Phoebe, what were their parents going to do – not send them to school?”

Their parents sent their children to school because they loved them. They wanted their children to learn and to grow and to make new friends. And most of the parents in Newtown, Connecticut (and most other places in the world) will continue to send their children to school, despite their fears, because they love them*.

This young woman’s family needs all the prayer and support we can muster. If I love them I will do what I can, and I will not avoid them out of fear of my own emotions. I need to respond to them with love, not fear.

My son needs to take walks with me, to talk and use his expanding vocabulary, to smell the fresh air, observe the world, and exercise.  If I love my son I will do these things for him out of love. I need to respond to him with love, not fear.

With an aching heart I pray for this young woman’s family and friends and offer them the comfort that I can. With a trembling heart I acknowledge that yes, such a tragedy could strike any one of my children, and no, I cannot control it. With a loving heart I try to let go of my fears and do the things that will help my children flourish, despite all the scary possibilities connected to the simple act of crossing the street, or going to school. 

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." I John 4:18 (NKJV)

* Some parents may have decided to home school their children, and, knowing the sacrifices they must make to do so, are also responding out of love.  Very few parents are simply preventing their children all contact with the world – that would be a response of fear.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm Gonna Wash Your Mouth Out with Soap

What I've Been Reading (No. 2)

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

By Boy's Life (Boys' Life - Apr 1937 - Page 38)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm talking about that bad word discipline again today, but this time, in the context of children. As I mentioned in a previous post about the topic, we often think of discipline as a bad word because, when it comes to children, it refers to how we deal with children when they misbehave. It brings up memories of the ways we were "disciplined" as children, and the ways we try to do differently (or the same) with ours.
I'm trying to think about discipline with my children a little differently. I've shared how I'm trying to link discipline with desire for myself. How do I do that with my children? Specifically,

1- How do I help my children desire good behavior?
2- How do I help my children develop the self-control they need to achieve their own goals in the future?

One helpful resource I have found for the first question is one of the best parenting books I have ever read, The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Thomas and Ross Campbell. In it, they discuss what the five love languages are, how they specifically manifest themselves with children, and how parents can discover their child's love language. Numerous behavior problems can be preemptively solved when we learn how to show our children how much we love them.

I've seen my own children respond much better to me and my instructions to them when my husband and I intentionally show them love in their language. Once, when my son was giving me a hard time getting dressed and ready to go, his dad got on the phone with him and gave him a few words of affirmation, one of the five love languages. Within minutes my son had fully cooperated with me, and we were ready to go without frustration.

The book also has a chapter specifically about discipline and the love languages. I've read many parenting books, and The Five Love Languages of Children tops my must-read list. I refer to it again and again.*

Recent studies, like this one reported on NPR, are proving the importance of instilling self-control and self-discipline in children for their future success. Children that could demonstrate better self-control in childhood were more financially successful later in life and had fewer health problems.

Instilling self-control in my children seemed to me like a tall order until I started coming across parenting blogs that share some very useful ideas, such as this great post from One Perfect Day about helping children as young as 4 years old manage their own screen time. Each day, this mother gives her toddler 9 cards that each represent 10 minute segments of screen time. With a few rules, her son has been able to regulate his own time playing Angry Birds on her tablet, with fewer struggles when his time was up.

What ideas and resources do you have for helping children desire good behavior and instilling self-discipline in children? Please share them in the comments.  

*This post contains affiliate links. That means if you choose to purchase the book mentioned in the blog, I will get a commission if you click through my links. I will never post an affiliate link to a book unless I have read it myself, found it useful, and worth sharing.