For Memorial Day, Jeremy, Melissa, and I had our second annual picnic. The goal was to keep it simple (But, seriously, when do I ever keep anything simple?), so we dispensed with the grill and had a mostly fresh, mostly raw vegan picnic lunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here’s what you need to make your very own Memorial Day picnic lunch (on any day):
1. Summer rolls: Soak rice wrappers. Add baked tofu, sliced carrots, bean sprouts, spring greens, and avocado. Roll them up like a tiny burrito. Dip in peanut sauce.
2. Make a fruit salad, cut up some vegetables, and buy or make a tub of hummus. Pretty self-explanatory.
3. For good measure, throw in some whole wheat sourdough bread and vegan cheese.
The kitchen was a mess. Red and green spatters were on the walls and our faces, edible glitter and sprinkles were underfoot, and every surface had a light dusting of flour. You guessed it: we made Christmas cookies.
This year, I was on a mission to make vegan Christmas cookies that tasted like the ones I remembered from my childhood. I wanted crisp sugar cookies with royal icing and decorations, and I wanted them to taste like the cookies that my dad used to get at (now closed) Hinkle’s Bakery in my hometown. It was a pretty tall order, but I was determined to get it right.
The first thing I needed was a good vegan royal icing recipe that would properly harden–a goal that has, admittedly, eluded me for years. After checking out what other folks had tried, I came up with a recipe that I’m pretty pleased with. It fully hardens and, from what I remember, tastes like royal icing should.
Vegan Royal Icing 2 cups confectioner’s sugar 2-3 tablespoons of soy milk (I used plain Silk to keep the recipe from getting ridiculously sweet) 4 teaspoons of light corn syrup 1/2 teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract a pinch of corn starch (I didn’t measure, but .5 teaspoons is the high end of my estimate) Food coloring
Stir soy milk into confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Using your electric (or manual) hand mixer, add corn syrup and extracts, beating until well combined and glossy. Still using hand mixer, beat in corn starch until fully combined. Mix in food coloring. Cover immediately if you’re not ready to use it, as it will quickly start to set.
To frost cooled cookies, hold a cookie between two fingers and dip the front into the frosting, evenly covering the surface. Tip the cookie up, allowing excess frosting to drip back into bowl. On a flat, covered surface, add any additional decorations, and allow to dry for several hours before serving or packing.
For the cookie portion of the evening, I modified a family recipe that my grandmother passed down to me a couple of years ago. We always had these cookies at holiday gatherings, so it felt especially appropriate to veganize the recipe.
Grandma Joyce’s Sugar Cookies .5 cup vegan margarine (Buttery Sticks!) .5 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (Earth Balance Shortening is really easy to use) 2 cups vegan white sugar .5 cup vegan sour cream (Use 1 cup for drop cookies. I like Tofutti Sour Supreme) 4.5 cups unbleached white flour 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 5 tablespoons water (combine and set aside) 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp salt
In a stand mixer, combine the sugar, shortening, and margarine. Add the vegan sour cream, and mix until fully integrated. Beat in the vanilla extract and flax/water mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Gradually add dry ingredients to mixer bowl until fully combined.
Be warned: this recipe will not be as thick as most roll-out cookie recipes. If needed, add up to 1 cup of additional flour to get to the dough to a barely sticky consistency.
Scoop half of the batter at a time onto a liberally floured pastry cloth, and roll to about .25″ thick. Cut with your favorite cookie cutters, and carefully place shapes on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper (to keep the cookies from burning before fully baked).Bake at 350 F for 10-11 minutes or until the edges are golden. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack before frosting.
The holiday season is well upon us, and I am finally starting to feel healthy again. Over the past 3 weeks or so, I managed to catch a nasty head cold from my husband, which morphed into an upper respiratory infection that culminated in laryngitis over Thanksgiving weekend. After weeks of poor health and listlessness, I finally strode into my yoga class this morning feeling a little weak, but definitely on the mend. Now that I have a bit of energy–and significantly less snot–in my life, I’m slowly getting caught up on the things I’ve been neglecting. I know that Thanksgiving was last weekend, and that everyone’s already moved on to the Christmas/Solstice/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus season, but I still think it deserves a post. Our Thanksgiving was a wonderful celebration of friends, and I’m excited about the good food and good company that came together for a very memorable meal.
This was Jeremy’s and my first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Because we had recently spent time with our families at our wedding, we opted to stay in Brooklyn this year and co-host Thanksgiving dinner at our pal Amanda’s house. I was in charge of the vegan portion of dinner, and Amanda, who loves cooking with butter and cream, was in charge of the more traditional version of the meal. We fed 15 or so people with the following menu (vegan items in green): Salad & Cheeses Turkey &Gravy; Tofurkey & Country Gravy I baked the tofurkey in my Le Creuset, and found that adding an inch or so of vegetable broth to the bottom before putting it in the oven really helps to keep it moist and tender. Sage Stuffing Mashed Potatoes a la Melanie Macaroni and Cheese Broccoli with Garlic and Almonds Sesame String Beans Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar Acorn Squash Risotto Sweetcorn Baked Sweet Potatoes Corn Bread Homemade Breads from Haley & Amanda
Below, Amanda (L) teaches me how to (R) make baguettes. Buttermilk Brandied-Cranberry Cake with Caramel Pumpkin Pecan Tart Apple Pie Two of my favorite things: Baking and right angles! Marshmallow Mud Cake I got this recipe from My Sweet Vegan, a vegan dessert cookbook by Hannah Kaminsky. I didn’t have the 9-inch pan that the recipe called for, so I doubled it and tried for a layer cake using my 7-inch springforms. The cake was beautiful for all of 30 seconds. Unsurprisingly, the heavy, gooey marshmallow layers made for epic structural integrity failure in the moist cake layers. By the time I was done frosting, it looked as though a mudslide had ripped right through the top layer. It was ugly, but it was still one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made. Apple Cider Cocktails
Needless to say, we all stuffed ourselves silly. I pronounce Thanksgiving a success.
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