An Ode to Vegan Cookies

Vegan Oreos

Sure there are all those bean and tofu and vegetable dishes, but what about…cookies? Who can live in a world without cookies? Funny you should ask. We have been on a cookie spree that began one dark New Years Eve when my son Amnon prepared a cookie tray for his New Years Party:

Amnon's New Year's Cookie Platter

You may recognize this from the banner of this blog and it was an inspiration to me to start blogging. From left to right we have Fig Smushed Anise-Almond Cookies from p. 234 of “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Chocolate Chip Chai Spice Shortbread and Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies found on p. 193 and p. 53 respectively of “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar”, also by the same author, and Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies from Moskowitz’s Post Vegan Kitchen Blog.

The Pumpkin cookies were the hands down winner, closely seconded by the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. I alone loved the Chocolate Chip Chai Spice Shortbread – perfect for the mid-morning glass of tea break. But having broken the vegan cookie barrier, we weren’t content to stop with one platter, and Amnon was soon pressed into service to create Moscowitz’s “vegan oreo cookies,” or Ooh La Las on p. 186 of the Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar book. (Pictured at top of post.)

To start off the second week of the New Year and have something ready to pop into lunchboxes, I picked a recipe from p. 201 the Cookie Book, as we now call it, and made Frosted Grapefruit Icebox Cookies. By the time I got to the icing all three kids were standing around spooning the glaze on and decorating the tops with the zest.(And with zest). Waiting to taste. And these are GREAT! Who would have thought that the slight bitterness of grapefruit would set off the sweetness of these shortbread-like cookies so beautifully.

Frosted Grapefruit Icebox Cookies

A word about the science of vegan baking. The cookie is relatively flat in the world of baked goods and does not need the kind of interventions that larger, fluffier goods, such as muffins, cakes and scones require in lieu of eggs. A little cornstarch and baking powder in the recipes has these rising nicely.

If you would like to get the cookbooks referenced here, I have set up (with the permission of WordPress) a Tofu Crossing Trading Post where you can find all the cookbooks and gadgets referenced here.

I hope this is helpful and may your world be full of cookies.

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Cauliflower Curry Dinner (Aloo Gobi Masala)

Cauliflower Curry Dinner

Lest you think, this first week out, that all our meals are one-bowl wonders, I decided to show you last night’s dinner. It is much simpler than it looks – involves a mixture of some serious-chef-like slicing and then dumping cans and frozen vegetables. And it is very tasty. My husband and I had the benefit of tasting authentic home cooked Indian food in our student days when he lived in an international co-op, and we made our friend Tejas teach us this dish. It becomes vegan when the ghee is traded out for canola oil.

1 and 1/2 C brown rice
3 and 1/2 C water

One large onion
One head of cauliflower
3 medium russet potatoes
2 T of canola oil
3 T spice mixture: whole mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, chili pepper, garam masala and salt
OR 2 T curry powder and salt to taste
12 oz can of diced tomatoes
16 oz. bag of frozen peas.

Set up the brown rice in rice cooker (another highly recommended appliance) or saucepan and start cooking. Heat the oil and add the spice mixture or curry powder until a yellowish paste forms. Add the onions and saute until onions sweat. Add the potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the cauliflower. Stir for another 10 minutes – when cauliflower starts to soften, add the tomatoes. Put the frozen peas in a bowl of lukewarm water and then strain them – add the peas 5 minutes before serving.

On the plate in the picture is a serving of our friend Alison Kopit’s yummy purple cabbage salad, leftovers of which she gave us to take home after dinner the previous night. Adds color and texture!

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Hearty Bean, Corn and Tomato Soup

(with a nod to Trader Joe’s)

Hearty Bean, Corn and Tomato Soup

In this post I will demonstrate that vegan food need not be endlessly time consuming chopping and grating, nor does one need to run all over town for specialty hippie stores. One can use pre-prepared foods and STILL be vegan. The recipe relies heavily on the freezer stocked food from the Trader, as we call Trader Joe’s. This is even easier than fast food because you don’t have to leave the house.

1 large onion
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
dash of pepper
bay leaf
2 can Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Black Beans
2 28 oz. can of organic diced tomatoes (any brand)
1 bag of Trader Joe’s Roasted Corn

Chop and saute the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil with the salt, bay leaf and pepper. (This is a miripoix which is the basis for almost any soup – it can be left out for simplicity but it enriches the final product and brings the recipe across the line into “home-cooking.”) Then add the beans and tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes, add the corn – simmer another 10 minutes. Top with cilantro and serve. This feeds a family of 5 with some left over for the next day. I often prepare this for after school snack when everyone comes in tired and hungry. It is not sensitive to arrival times and can continue to simmer as they straggle in from different activities. All three of my sisters – Cynthia, Valerie and Lydia – make this soup – one of them taught it to my mother who passed it on to me.

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Curried Breakfast Scramble

Curried Tofu Scramble

A simple and easy meal that functions in the breakfast set-up like any scrambled egg dish, takes the same amount of time and tastes better. I learned to make it at Family Camp at Farm & Wilderness Foundation, where it is used to feed a hundred people at a sitting. It can be used for any meal, but I often whip this up when I feel a hot morning meal is called for – like snowy dark school mornings.

1 medium onion
1 cup of mushrooms
1 pkg firm tofu
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T curry powder
1 t garam masala
1 t cumin
1 t salt
soy sauce to taste

Get your onions sauteing in the spices. Cut the bar of tofu into two flatter halves, then cut into narrow strips along the width, and then cut those into thirds. You should end up with thin rectangles about 1 inch long. Press the water out (I just press with the flat of my knife) or if you don’t want to bother, throw it in and let the water cook out.  Add the soy sauce right before serving.  I go heavy on the cumin because I love it, but feel free to follow your own spice gods. My kids love this.

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Hummus 101

One of our favorite dishes as a family is hummus. And it is a great way not just to start this blog, but to start the New Year, because the round chickpeas are frequently cooked at the Jewish New Year to symbolize the circling around of the calendar. We come by our love of hummus honestly – two years ago we spent a school year in my husband’s hometown of Tel Aviv and had some of the best hummus in the known universe. However, there are several blogs devoted to the best hummus in Tel Aviv, so let’s move on the homemade version, which is surprisingly easy.

1 cup dry garbanzo beans (or 2.5 cooked)
2 cups cooking liquid (from beans)
1.5 cups sesame seeds, toasted until golden
2 garlic cloves
juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

olive oil, paprika, parsley and toasted pignoli for garnish

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight, cook the next day with 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda and an Onion for an hour or until soft. In the Vitamix (topic for another post), blend the toasted sesame seeds, lemon juice, cooking liquid, garlic, salt and cumin seeds for 60 seconds. You will get a delicious tahini paste. Remove the onion from the garbanzo beans cooking pan, set 1/2 cup of whole beans aside. Add the rest of the beans to the Vitamix, and 60 seconds later the Hummus will be ready.

Put the mixture into a bowl, swirl the top with a spatula to make spiral grooves, pour a little olive oil, sprinkle whole beans, pignoli and paprika. We sometimes make homemade pita, but you can buy pita everywhere – or we cut veggies for dipping. This does not resemble store bought hummus in the least and is absolutely delicious.

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Feeding a Vegan Family

When people hear we are vegans they often ask me how I feed my children, or say, “I could do it for myself, but my family would never go for it!”  This blog is the explanation.  It is a record of all the wonderful foods and recipes we discover, invent and evolve as a family. But most of all, it is food made into visible love.

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