the cookie diaries, day five

the cookie diaries, day five

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #04.

This batch was epic…as in twists-and-turns, ups-and-downs, take-up-an-entire-page-of-notebook-paper, go-over-our-blog-post-word-limit epic. It was made with the ingredients and procedure of Vegan Batch #03, but with 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, 1+ Tablespoons crushed peppermint candies, and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. If this works, Mike will have a flavor combination that is close to his traditional receipt.

Mike’s notes can take it from here:

“The dough mixed well with the additional ingredients. We’ll see if I put too much peppermint in the mixture.

“(Pro Tip: Don’t crush peppermint candies with a hammer while your spouse is taking a nap.)

“I’m using the crushed peppermint candies two ways: 1 Tablespoon mixed in the batter and a pinch of the pieces on top of each cookie. Let’s hope it’s not peppermint overload.

“As it’s baking, I’m smelling more of the dark chocolate—I wonder if 1/2 cup was too much.

“Now that they’re out of the oven, I think it was too much chocolate—it basically melted all over the cookie and the cookie sheet.

“They taste almost more bitter than sweet; the dark chocolate really dominates. Good texture and chewiness, though. And they pass the ‘milk dunk test’.

“My vegan co-worker tried one and liked it—and she’s picky. Her only comment was that there was too much chocolate, and that the chocolate should be in smaller pieces.

“…And after all this, I’ve just realized that I put only 1-1/2 cups of flour in the dough, not the 1-3/4 cups the original vegan receipt calls for. So I guess Vegan Batch #05 will have the correct amount of flour, plus a reduced amount of smaller bits of dark chocolate.”

Told you it was epic.


the cookie diaries, day four

the cookie diaries, day four

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #03.

Vegan Batch #02 proved the old baking adage that you cannot mess around with the proportions of an established receipt without paying the price. In this case, using the proportions of Mike’s traditional holiday cookie receipt with vegan, gluten-free ingredients cost him the fluffy, rounded cookie he’s looking for. Instead, Mike got a flat, somewhat chewy but still delicious cookie that Kathy called “a breakfast biscuit.”

So Vegan Batch #03 was made with the proportions of the original vegan receipt Mike’s adapting, plus 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Mike’s notes on this batch are pretty to the point:

“They came out looking just like the traditional cookies–which is a good sign. Still warm, they are moist and chewy and not overly sweet.

Kathy loves them. This is the base receipt for the vegan/gluten-free cookie.”

Eureka, y’all. But now came another important question: what could Mike add to this cookie that would make it just as unique as the traditional cookie he created? We don’t want to give everything away just yet, but Mike’s traditional holiday cookie contains a couple of very cool (and somewhat unusual) ingredients.

Off to the Interwebs for a search of fun and interesting vegan holiday cookie receipts, looking for that certain combination that sings Christmas like a carol. There were many possible combinations, but one in particular broke out in “Joy to the World” as soon as Mike saw it.

We can tell you that the ingredients in question are peppermint and chocolate, and that Vegan Batch #04 was…epic.

the cookie diaries, day three

the cookie diaries, day three

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #02.

You may recall that Batch #01 tasted good, but had a dry and grainy texture. Kathy suggested using unsweetened applesauce to add moisture and more salt to improve the flavor. So Batch #02 was made with those ingredients, plus the proportions and procedure of Mike’s original holiday sugar cookie recipe.

Lemon extract was added to this batch. And this time we’re using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour with xanthan gun already added.

This was The Batch of False Starts. It stared when I laid everything out and realized I didn’t have enough flour. So to the store I went. When I got back, I thought I had run out of baking powder. (Apparently I used baking soda instead of baking powder in the last batch.) So back to the store I went. When I got back this time, I inadvertently found baking powder hiding behind something else in the cupboard. The dough is finally resting, however…

Got 12 cookies (barely) from this batch.

WOW! They are FLAT. And VERY moist—almost too moist.

As for texture and taste: they are very chewy. The salt and the lemon extract really bring out the best of the sugar. Next batch: same as Batch #01, but with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the Bob’s Red Mill flour.

Kathy REALLY likes them. She compared them to breakfast biscuits—very dippable. (So they passed the “milk dunk” test.) This receipt isn’t the one I’m looking for, but this batch may yield another receipt—for breakfast biscuits. Tomorrow: Vegan Batch #03.

the cookie diaries, day two

the cookie diaries, day two

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. (Wonder why we call recipes “receipts”? Here’s your answer.) Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #1.

First, Mike had to find an established receipt and use that as his starting point. After a search of the Internets, he found this receipt at Florida Coastal Cooking and Wellness. The plan was to bake this first batch using the ingredients from this receipt and the procedure from Mike’s traditional receipt–which is much different from a traditional sugar cookie receipt.

It’s important when cooking with vegan and gluten-free ingredients to use equipment which is dedicated to those types of ingredients, to avoid cross-contamination. Mike used a #24 ice-cream scoop to form the cookies, which yielded only 9 cookies from the dough.

The cookies were done after 12 minutes, but they didn’t look very brown on top. They tasted “very pleasantly sweet”, according to Mike’s notes. The texture was somewhat light, which was encouraging, since the last thing we want to do is create a dense cookie. However, the texture was also dry and grainy (for reasons Mike didn’t discover until Vegan Batch #2–but that’s a story for tomorrow). The cookie didn’t hold up well to the “milk dunk test”; it fell apart very quickly.

Kathy, who is an important part of this process as Chief Taster, said the cookies had “great sweetness”, but needed salt and moisture.

So this first effort could be called a minor success. Lesson learned: Add salt and moisture. To that end, the next batch would have additional salt and moisture–as well as another important ingredient. But that, as they say, is a story for another day. Like tomorrow.

the cookie diaries, day one

the cookie diaries, day one

With the holiday season in full effect, it’s time in our kitchen to start making cookies. For years now, Mike has taken an old sugar cookie receipt, changed the procedure completely, added a couple of new ingredients, and ho ho ho—a holiday tradition was born.

This year, Mike’s mission is to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie that emulates his original receipt as close as possible while using all vegan, gluten-free, holistic ingredients. It’s a project that has proceeded in fits and starts over the years, and it was inspired both by Mike’s Natural Chef training and by the consequences of Kathy’s collagenous colitis. Now Mike has a co-worker in his day job who has become a vegan, so the time has come to shower some holiday cookie love over our vegan/gluten-free/holistic friends.

We expect to be baking at least one batch of cookies every day until Christmas comes. With that in mind, we’d thought it would be fun to keep a running diary of how the process is going. Mike started to do this last year, but only managed one entry. However, it was a pretty cool entry:

“Standard recipe, except for toasted almonds & no red sprinkles. Correction: red sprinkles found! Apparently, we are also awash in vanilla extract. The guides on the silicon baking sheets I’m using are perfect for making uniform-sized cookies. Twelve in the oven, with dough for more…


“Using the traditional ice-cream scoop yields 18 ‘good’ cookies.

“Oops…baked them at 350º instead of 375º—no wonder they took longer to bake!”

You get the idea. And as a holiday present to our patient readers, we’ll reveal both of our holiday cookie receipts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

some thoughts about Thanksgiving

some thoughts about Thanksgiving

It is suddenly Thanksgiving again, and some thoughts (and a receipt) crept into our heads.

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, created out of whole cloth by Presidential proclamations and based on an idealized history of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal of thanksgiving many Novembers ago. (Things weren’t always so cozy between the two.)

The idea of a meal of thanksgiving comes from the Puritan and Pilgrim groups who emigrated from England to modern-day Virginia and Massachusetts. As religious people, they wanted to thank their God for the blessings of the harvest. This religious sense has evolved into our modern-day “official” recognition of a God to whom thanks should be given.

We’d prefer to use this sense to celebrate Thanksgiving as “a day of gratitude” for the blessings we have enjoyed over the past year. This year, we’re grateful for having paying jobs, each other, and relatively good health.

Still, it’s a holiday specifically about food. Thanksgiving began (and continues) as a harvest festival, a celebration of the bounty of a season’s farming. It’s also the biggest meal of the year in America in terms of how much food is actually consumed. The Thanksgiving menu of today is directly descended from the first recorded Thanksgiving meals; it’s remained surprisingly consistent over the years. (Check out this wartime Thanksgiving Day menu from the USS Wake Island, including cigars and cigarettes!)

Our Thanksgiving menu is much simpler: roasted bone-in turkey breast, turkey gravy, a pot of our rice, and a hearty green salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, and shredded cheese and balsamic dressing. For dessert: our Thanksgiving staple, Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding. And your dessert? Our very first published receipt…for Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding. Try it out; let us know what you think.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding ~ a newdeal kitchen receipt

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This has become a Thanksgiving staple for us. Using almond milk eliminates the dairy, while pumpkin spice provides the flavor of pumpkins without the prep work required to cook pumpkins. Warning: This recipe is time- and labor-intensive. Be prepared to give up an hour of your time, and be prepared to do a lot of stirring.

By Michael Reardon 


3 cups vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

a pinch of kosher salt

1 cup Arborio rice

(optional) ½ cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk, for reheating

(optional) additional pumpkin spice and brown sugar as garnish


  1. Combine almond milk, brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin spice, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to boil.
  2. Reduce heat by a half and stir in Arborio rice. (Note: Do not let the mixture boil over. Adjust heat level as needed.)
  3. Continue stirring mixture until most of the liquid is absorbed and the mixture becomes thick and smooth. (Note: This will take approximately 20-30 minutes and you must stir constantly during this time.)
  4. Let mixture cool. Refrigerate until serving.
  5. The rice pudding can be eaten cold or can be reheated by adding the optional ½ cup of almond milk and stirring under medium-low heat until the milk is absorbed. Garnish with additional pumpkin spice and brown sugar.

how we cook rice

Rice is a staple in our kitchen, especially for Kathy, who relies on rice as one of the few starches in her diet (collagenous colitis is no fan of fiber). So we have to keep up a supply of cooked rice. We grew tired very quickly of cooking rice in a pot: the results didn’t last very long, and were inconsistent in quality—that due to us smershing together every rice recipe the two of us had ever heard of and trying to improvise a result.

Then we heard that some folks use their slow cooker to make their rice. We did some experimenting and actually came up with a reliable recipe we could use every time. It would take an hour and a half to cook, but at end of it, we would wind up with restaurant-quality sticky rice.

And then we broke the slow cooker. Mike put the ceramic part in a precarious location in the refrigerator; when Kathy opened the door, the ceramic part slid out and onto the floor, breaking it.

Naturally, we wondered how we were going to cook our rice. We took to the Interwebs with the magical phrase “how to cook rice”, and found this amazing recipe and video on the Real Simple website . We followed the instructions and were rewarded with perfectly cooked rice.

But we still had to get another slow cooker, and we did: a six-quart monster with recipes that would feed an army. We repeated our ingredients and procedure from the previous slow cooker (which was smaller) and we were quite happy with the results. We think we’re going to increase the amount of water a bit, because some of the rice on the edges looked overcooked, but otherwise we now have two reliable ways to cook rice.