Holiday Sugar Cookies

These cookies are a Chanukah tradition in my house. They are full of sugar, but everyone deserves to indulge a bit during the holidays. Dip them in some coconut “egg” nog, snuggle up next to the fire, and have a wonderful holiday! ūüôā

Ingredients: 

For the cookies:

1 cup granulated sugar

¬Ĺ cup¬†coconut butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg equivalent of ener-g egg replacer (1.5 tsp powder + 2 tbsp water)

1 cup gluten free oat flour

¬ĺ cup brown rice flour

1 tbsp arrowroot powder

¬ľ tsp salt

¬Ĺ tsp baking powder

2 tbsp cold water

1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

For the frosting:

1.5 tablespoons almond milk

1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1) Soften the coconut butter in the microwave on high for 15 seconds, then stir with a spoon until you get a smooth, creamy paste.

2) Pour the coconut butter and sugar into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer or whisk vigorously.

3) Add the vanilla and ener-g egg replacer, and continue mixing until everything is combined.

4) Add the flour, salt, arrowroot powder, baking powder, and continue mixing until you get a crumbly mixture and everything is incorporated.

5) Finally, add the cold water and applesauce, and mix. The dough should not be wet or sticky, but should hold together well.

6) Divide the dough in half and wrap each part in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for at least one hour, but you can also freeze the dough for a week if you’re not ready to bake it yet.

7) When you’re ready to bake, the dough needs to be taken out of the fridge and warmed up for about 1-2 hours before you can roll it out successfully. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick, and cut shapes out with cookie cutters.

8) Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges, and let them cool for 30-45 minutes before frosting.

9) Mix the powdered sugar and almond milk together to make the frosting. Add more sugar to make it thicker, and more almond milk to make it thinner. Frost each cookie and decorate with candy, sprinkles, and chocolate chips.

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Peppermint Chocolate Fudge

I’m sticking with my holiday dessert theme to bring you another Christmas treat! I used this really simple recipe from Katy’s Kitchen¬†to make my peppermint fudge. Her recipe makes a basic chocolate fudge, so I¬†put a little holiday spin on it. I replaced the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in her recipe with¬†1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract.¬†

I crushed three full-size vegan candy canes to sprinkle on top of the fudge before putting it in the fridge to set. To crush the candy canes, put them in a sealed ziploc bag, place them on a cutting board, and use a hammer to crush them into small pieces.

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peppermint fudge

I also made a white chocolate version of this fudge recipe! I used¬†vegan “golden white chocolate” from Organic Nectars.¬†¬†The color is actually a tan/brown as opposed to white, though it tastes like white chocolate. I used 3 oz of the white chocolate, 2.5 tbsp coconut milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tbsp coconut oil for this version. I also sprinkled some crushed up candy canes on top¬†because it’s Christmas!

Mini Vegan Gingerbread House

What’s the point of a gingerbread house if you can’t eat it? Sure, it’s fun to get one of those pre-made kits and decorate it, but I don’t want to stare at¬†my inedible gingerbread house for¬†two weeks and then throw it away. I want to take a few pictures, show it off at my holiday party, and then commence snacking.

Gingerbread has always been¬†off-limits to me because of my various allergies,¬†but this year I’d finally had enough. I was going to find a way to have my gingerbread house and eat it too. When I found a¬†recipe on Minimalist Baker, it was exactly what I was looking for. It is a perfect allergy-friendly gingerbread recipe free of dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, corn, and (my allergy arch-nemesis) cloves. It works nicely for gingerbread house construction or just making some kick-ass cookies, and it made my whole house smell like Christmas!

To make your own gingerbread house, you will need:

1) Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Gluten Free Gingerbread Dough. For Dana’s recipe I used 1.5 cups of gluten free flour blend (1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1/4 cup arrowroot powder, 1/4 cup potato starch). For the “vegan butter” I recommend using coconut butter (it’s thicker than¬†coconut oil) softened in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and stirred with a spoon until smooth (it should look like melted frosting). I baked the gingerbread house cutouts for 20 minutes at 350F¬†to make sure they would be firm.

Note: I made a double batch of the gingerbread dough recipe to make sure there was enough for the entire house, and had some dough left over for cookies! I ate most of the cookies, but did use a few for my gingerbread house scene. gingerbread 5

2) Cherrybrook Kitchen vegan/gluten free vanilla frosting, or your preferred frosting. The frosting should not be too watery or too hot, or it will melt and the walls will not stick together. ¬†You can make your own frosting by mixing powdered sugar with water or almond milk, and adding more sugar if it’s too runny. The gingerbread recipe link from Minimalist Baker also has suggestions for making your own frosting. Keep in mind that the thicker the frosting is, the better support it will be for your gingerbread house.

3) A 12 inch round cardboard base to place the house on, a square cardboard tissue box to support the walls of the house, and piping bags for the frosting.

4) Vegan/gluten free candy to decorate your house. I used kosher jelly beans that I found in the Chanukah section of my grocery store (they’re kosher because they don’t contain gelatin, so they’re vegan too!), Dandies vegan marshmallows,¬†dairy free chocolate figures from Premium Chocolatiers, and Bob’s candy canes.

5) Vegan-suitable food dye, in case you want to make your frosting different colors to decorate with. I used “India Tree” brand that I found in Whole Foods.

6) Mini gingerbread house template. I used the Swedish House template from this BBC Good Food recipe.

Directions:

1) Prepare the dough according to the instructions on Minimalist Baker. I recommend making a double batch and using the leftover dough for cookies. I refrigerated the dough for two hours before rolling out and baking.

2) Print out the template (it should be about the size of a postcard). Take a sheet of parchment or wax paper and place it over the template. Trace the three wall shapes onto the parchment paper, then cut them out so you have three paper shapes.

3) Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out about 1/4-1/2 inch thick onto parchment paper or a floured surface. Place the parchment paper wall shape cutouts over the rolled out dough and cut the shapes out of the dough using a sharp knife. Use a spatula to transfer each shape to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of room between each shape since they spread as they bake. Make two of each shape (front and back, two sides of the roof, and two short walls, so you end up with six walls total).gingerbread 2

4) Bake the six walls for 20 minutes to make sure they are firm. Let them cool completely before constructing the house or they will melt the frosting. It’s best to let them cool for at least 12-24 hours (I waited two days before using them for the house) to make sure they’re sturdy enough to stand on the cardboard, or they will fall apart when you try to work with them.

5) Take your regular sized square tissue box and stand it upright so that the opening is on the top. Measure the height of the shortest wall (“B” on the template) on the box, tracing all around with a pen. Cut off the top of the box around the traced line so that the tissue box is only as tall as side “B”.

 

6) Place a piece of plastic wrap on the cardboard base and put the tissue box base on top of it. Wrap the tissue box in the plastic wrap so that the outside is completely covered. Use two pieces of double sided tape to stick the tissue box to the cardboard base. I put mine closer to one edge of the cardboard circle so I could make a larger “front yard” for the house.

7) Place your frosting into a piping bag and cut off the bottom. Pipe frosting around the base and top edges of the tissue box, and pipe 3-4 dots of frosting in the center of each “wall” of the tissue box. Press each gingerbread wall to its appropriate tissue box wall, and hold it for a few seconds to make sure it sticks. Use frosting for extra glue/support and to fill in any gaps between the walls.¬†Place only the four supporting walls around the tissue box–don’t place the roof on yet!

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8) Let the four supporting walls dry and set for at least 30 minutes before putting the roof pieces on. When you’re ready to place the roof, pipe frosting onto all the top edges of the house before placing the roof on, then pipe more frosting into the spaces between all the walls to make sure everything sticks.

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10) Decorate the house and surrounding cardboard area with your favorite candy and gingerbread cookies using the frosting as a glue.

Then let it dry, show it off, and EAT THAT GINGERBREAD HOUSE!

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Note:¬†I used gingerbread dough for this recipe, but you can try it with other types of cookie dough too and follow the same steps. My mom made a non-vegan sugar cookie house, and it was awesome (it’s pictured below). My vegan/gluten free sugar cookie recipe will be coming in the next few days if you’re feeling adventurous!

Edit: My sugar cookie recipe is here! 

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Simple Vegan Latkes

Happy Hanukkah! The miracle of Hanukkah is¬†all about the oil that burned for eight days when it was supposed to only last for one, and how it saved the temple in Jerusalem.¬†We¬†celebrate by frying everything and anything in oil and lighting the menorah for eight nights. So if you want some real latkes for Hanukkah, don’t be stingy with the oil. That’s the whole point!latkes 1

Ingredients:

4 russet potatoes

1 white or sweet onion

1/4 cup potato starch

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Grapeseed or canola oil for frying

Directions:

1) Wash and peel the potatoes and onion. Use a grater or food processor to grate the potatoes, then place them in a colander over a bowl or paper towel to drain the liquid out. You can also press the grated potato between two layers of paper towels to remove more liquid, which helps the latkes bind together. Once drained, place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl.

2) Peel and dice/grate the onion and place in the mixing bowl with the potatoes.

3) Add the baking powder, potato starch, salt, and pepper and mix well.

4) Pour one inch of oil into a frying pan and place on high heat for a minute or two. Once the oil starts to bubble, use a medium-sized ice cream scoop to place balls of the grated potato mixture into the oil, about 3-4 at a time.

5) Let the potatoes fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown, and be careful not to burn them. Flip them using a spatula since they are delicate and will break apart with too much pressure. When they are done, remove them from the oil and drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.

6) Serve them hot with lots and lots of applesauce!

Cider & Rum Punch

Here’s a¬†mulled cider cocktail recipe for all of your holiday parties. It is so easy to make! You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this drink. Bonus, it’s gluten free! If you’re looking for more gluten free drink options, Glutenista has a great list.

Ingredients:

4 cups of apple cider

6 oz spiced rum

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

Pour the apple cider into a saucepan on high heat and add the cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Stir slowly until the cider boils, then remove from the heat and take out the cinnamon sticks with a spoon. Add the rum and stir, then pour into a pitcher or punch bowl. Serve warm.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna with Maple Cream Sauce

My favorite fall vegetable is butternut squash. I use it in soup, salads, mac and cheese (seriously–try this amazing recipe from Oh She Glows), and¬†now lasagna! The inspiration for this came from a friend’s incredible butternut squash ravioli made with hand-rolled pasta and lots of goat cheese. I’m still working on a ravioli version of my recipe, but the lasagna is pretty awesome too. Whatever package your butternut squash puree comes in, this dish is some serious autumn comfort food.

It’s also a good option for a vegan Thanksgiving dinner,¬†especially if you are attending a non-vegan dinner and want to bring something that you know you’ll be able to eat. It¬†is really easy to pack up at home and reheat when you arrive, but make sure to put the sauce in a separate container. To reheat this dish, put it in the oven at 350F for ten minutes, or microwave on high for 90 seconds.¬†Reheat the sauce in the microwave (covered) for 30 seconds on high, or in a saucepan on the stove.

Ingredients

For the lasagna:

20 oz cubed butternut squash, frozen or fresh

1/3 cup goveggie parm cheese OR 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast (soy free option!)

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup plain almond cheese¬†(recipe here)¬†‚Äďleave out parsley, chives, and garlic from the almond cheese

1 box of gluten-free lasagna noodles

For the cream sauce:*

4 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp onion powder

1 cup almond milk

2 tbsp potato starch or cornstarch

2 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp ground thyme

*If you don’t want a sweet sauce for your lasagna, you can replace the maple syrup and thyme with 2 tsp ground sage OR 2 tsp dried basil instead. Sage or basil cream sauces go well with this dish, and you can follow the same directions below to make them.

Directions:

First, soak your almonds for the almond cheese in water so they are ready to blend in an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Next, take the cubed squash and place it on a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to instructions on the package, then drain and set aside.

When the squash is done, take it out and let it cool. While the squash is cooling, make the almond cheese in a blender. Place almond cheese in a small bowl in the fridge for ten minutes.

Next, put the squash into a mixing bowl. Mash the squash with a fork until you reach the consistency of mashed potatoes. Mix in 1/2 cup of almond cheese, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (or 1/3 cup soy parmesan cheese), and 1 tsp nutmeg. Stir until everything is combined.IMG_0309

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place one layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon half the butternut squash mixture over the noodles, then cover with another layer of noodles. Spoon the rest of the mixture on top, and cover with one more layer of noodles. Bake this in the oven for 10 minutes.

 

While the lasagna is baking, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan on medium heat on the stove and pour in the onion powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond milk and potato starch until all of the starch is dissolved and there are no clumps, then pour this into the saucepan and whisk until everything is combined. Pour in the maple syrup and thyme powder and continue whisking the sauce until it starts to bubble and thicken. When it has reached the consistency of pudding, remove it from the heat.

Take the lasagna out of the oven and cut it into squares. Pour the sauce over each piece of lasagna and serve warm.

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Holiday Survival Tips

So you’ve made this big change in your life, you’re eating healthier, you feel great, and now you have to go to a big family dinner where nobody understands your choices and will probably not be serving foods that you can eat. The holidays can be a stressful time even without the extra food restrictions, so here are some tips to avoid the stress that goes along with being a vegan in a non-vegan world:

1) Don’t assume that anybody knows what you can and can’t eat! They might not know exactly what your dietary preferences are. Be specific in your examples. When I go to a family dinner, I tell them I cannot eat milk, cheese, eggs, meat, or bread, but that I would LOVE some green beans with garlic and oil. I once told someone¬†I was a vegan without giving examples–I got a dairy-free cookie with eggs in it, but I really appreciated the effort. They just didn’t know what vegan meant, and that’s OK! If you’re going to a non-vegan party, ask the host¬†if you can see the menu beforehand, and let them know about any specific dietary restrictions. They might ask what kind of food they can make or order for you, or you can offer to bring your own. Your friends and family might even want to try what you brought! Choose something that travels easily and can be reheated and served in someone else’s kitchen with minimal effort.

2) Don’t get¬†preachy.¬†There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a dinner you’ve been looking forward to and having someone tell you how it’s terrible for you and how could you possibly put that into your body? You’ve made a choice to go vegan or gluten-free, but nobody else at the table has made that choice, and they shouldn’t feel bad about that. Offer your food as an exciting option: “Hey look! Cool hipster food! Try something new!” but don’t try to convert others at their favorite meal of the year.

3) Have your elevator pitch ready to go.¬†If you haven’t seen your family and friends in a long time (or if you have recently seen them, and then they forgot they asked you already), be patient with their questions. They may genuinely be interested in why you chose this lifestyle, or they might disagree with it and tell you it’s silly. Either way, if you already know what your 30-second answers are to “why did you go vegan? how is it helping you? what can you eat?” you won’t spend the entire night trying to teach everyone about your food, since that can get a little exhausting.

4) Have snacks on hand for emergencies.¬†If you’re going to a party that will have nothing you can eat, and something goes wrong with your food or the party goes on for a long time and you get hungry later, you’ll want to have a backup plan. ¬†Pack some trail mix, granola bars, fruit, cookies, or a PB&J so you can avoid any blood-sugar related issues and you won’t be tempted to eat something you’re not supposed to.

5)¬†Have fun!¬†Enjoy spending time with your friends and family, and don’t stress too much about the food–with a little bit of planning, you can have a great dinner wherever you are!