Recipe: Sugar Cookies

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I had a weird week at school, but a good week in the kitchen. I brought these vegan sugar cookies to class on Halloween and topped them with star sprinkles because those are the spookiest sprinkles I have. The surprise ingredient in these sugar cookies is pumpkin – they’re on theme for this time of year!

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Ingredients

Cookies
1 c organic Earth Balance
1 c sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c pumpkin puree
2 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c flour
1 T arrowroot powder
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
2-3 t non-dairy milk

Frosting
1/2 c organic Earth Balance
1/2 t vanilla extract
3 c powdered sugar
Splash non-dairy milk
Sprinkles (optional)

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Instructions

Cookies

  1. Add softened butter to a large mixing bowl and cream with a mixer.
  2. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin. Beat for one minute.
  3. Sift flour, arrowroot powder, sea salt, baking soda, and baking powder over butter mixture.
  4. Mix until until just combined, being careful not to over mix.
  5. Add non-dairy milk and mix until soft dough forms. If dough appears too wet, add flour 1 T at a time.
  6. Cover and freeze dough for 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350° F and position rack in the center of oven.
  8. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop chilled dough into balls, about 1 T each. Arrange 2-3 inches apart to allow for spreading.
  9. Dip the bottom of a glass into sugar and gently mash balls down into discs to help them cook more evenly.
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes, or slightly golden brown.
  11. Remove cookies from oven and let rest on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a plate to cool completely.

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Frosting

  1. Rinse mixing bowl clean and add butter. Beat until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in vanilla.
  3. Add powdered sugar 1/2 c at a time and continue mixing until thick and creamy.
  4. Splash in a little non-dairy milk to thin. You want the frosting to hold shape once on the cookies, so only add a little milk. Add more powdered sugar if it gets too thin.
  5. Once completely cooled, frost cookies and top with sprinkles, if desired.
  6. Store covered leftovers at room temperature for 3-4 days.

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Yields ~36 cookies.

Adapted from 1-Bowl Vegan Sugar Cookies.


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Recipe: Stuffed Mushroom Eyeballs

I come alive in Q4, especially October. I’ve celebrated Halloween all month by doing one spooky activity per day, and today I made creepy eyeball hors d’oeuvres. Halloween is on a Wednesday this year, which is a good opportunity to have some loved ones over for a spooky movie and an All Hallows’ Eve themed spread with these EYEBALLS.

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Ingredients

16 oz button mushrooms*
1 block extra firm tofu, drained**
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t lemon juice
3/4 t sea salt
1/2 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t black pepper
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T sun-dried tomatoes (from bag, not packed in oil), julienned
1 small can of sliced black olives

*This recipe yields a lot of tofu ricotta, so feel free to double your mushrooms for more eyeballs or keep the ricotta for another recipe.
**If you prefer to avoid tofu, this recipe would be great with a store-bought or homemade cashew cheese.

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Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Rinse mushrooms, pull out stems, and set aside on a baking sheet.
  3. Puree tofu, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt, Italian seasoning, onion powder and pepper together in a food processor until completely smooth. Set aside.
  4. Using a teaspoon, drip a few drops of balsamic vinegar into each mushroom cap.
  5. Make a piping bag by scooping tofu ricotta mixture into a Ziploc and trimming off a corner. Pipe mixture into each cap so that it creates a small mound.
  6. Place sun-dried tomato pieces on stuffed mushrooms, and top each one with one slice of olive. Press down gently.
  7. Bake the mushrooms for 15 minutes, until the caps begin to wrinkle slightly.

Serve warm or room temperature.

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Rick Aldrich: Spooky Mushroom Eyeball Model and General Good Sport

Serves eight.

Adapted from Stuffed Mushroom Eyeballs.

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Recipe: Corn Risotto

Nothin’ says fall like throwing some corn into a comforting dish.

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bonus: eating leeks makes you look like you have your life together

Ingredients

2 T organic Earth Balance
1 leek, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1 t sea salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 c arborio rice
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c water
6 c vegetable stock
2 corn ears, kernels cut off (about 1 1/2 c corn)
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c rice milk

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If you’re gonna eat dairy, eat organic. This way you know the animals and food have been treated as ethically as possible.

  1. Melt Earth Balance in a high-sided sauté pan over medium-low. Add leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about six minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  2. Add rice and cook, stirring, until grains look slightly translucent.
  3. Pour in vinegar and water and cook, stirring, until it has all been absorbed, about two minutes.
  4. Add a cup of stock to the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until rice has absorbed all of the stock. Continue cooking, adding one cup of stock at a time when rice mixture looks dry. Stir continuously.
  5. When half the stock has been added, stir in corn.
  6. Continue cooking until all stock is mixed in, corn is tender, and rice is creamy, about 40 minutes total.
  7. Remove risotto from heat and stir in Parmesan and remaining tablespoon of Earth Balance. Cover and let stand for five minutes.
  8. Uncover risotto, stir in milk, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve topped with shaved Parmesan, if desired.

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Serves eight.

Adapted from Corn Risotto.

The Uncertainty of Mental Illness

Acknowledging Uncertainty

Collective hours, days, weeks, and months of my family members’ lives have been spent trying to understand and unpack my brother’s inexplicable decisions and lack of reaction to consequence. Alex dropped out of high school, but the classroom doesn’t suit everyone. Alex was discharged from the Army, but they were just drug tested to make an example of his platoon. Alex lost his left leg in a car wreck, but everyone has a false sense of immortality and drives drunk when they’re 22. Alex shot himself in the head and lived, but “god has a plan” for someone who’s survived so much. Alex lives under a bridge, but that fabled rock bottom must be imminent.

Silence falls over the family analysts, downcast eyes resting on a coffee mug handle being pushed back and forth between someone’s thumbs. There isn’t much crying anymore. Those salty reserves were depleted long ago.

Accepting Uncertainty

When I moved to NYC I packed my Diane von Furstenberg, Wellbutrin, and mounting guilt for leaving so much tumult back in Texas. The unidentified seeds of my depression and anxiety sprouted in childhood, their insidious, invisible tendrils choking me through high school and college. Because my mental illnesses were finally able to be identified and medicated, I became able to live some semblance of a normal life.

Alex has not been so fortunate. There has been so much anger bestowed upon my brother due to his inexplicable mental state, including from me. My failure to consider he could not help himself lasted for several years, and it’s only been just recently that I’ve let anger evaporate and acceptance rain down on us both. When I think of my brother, it is with sadness, but it’s mostly with love and mercy. Our genes come from the same pool, and it just so happens that the combination he got created a long-suffering mental state that is either not yet defined in the mental health community or is shrouded in obscurity, yet to be matched and applied to him. It is not his fault.

Embracing Uncertainty

As an orderly person, it is a joy to classify and organize things, physically or mentally. Accepting the uncertainty of my brother’s co-occurrence of mental illness and addiction has been a paramount, unanticipated challenge. For so long family members have been hoping for the proverbial lightbulb to turn on in Alex’s mind, his final pivot toward a healed, “normal” life. Alex inspires me to reconsider normalcy, expectations, and success, because those things look different for every person. For my brother, it’s a sister who accepts and loves him from 1500 miles away. As if we were sitting next to each other, it is a virtual embrace, and for now it’s the best we can do.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet potatoes are fabulous for you, and gnocchi is delicious and can easily be made vegan. If you’re intimidated by the idea of making your own gnocchi, well, so was I. Fear not! I was delighted by the ease of this recipe. Also, orange food makes for a good October dish. #spooky

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Ingredients

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 T ground flax
3 T water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t sea salt plus a pinch
1/2 t nutmeg
2 c flour

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  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Combine ground flax and water and allow a few minutes to congeal. Mix well and set aside.
  4. Once cool enough to work with, remove potato peels and mash potatoes in a large bowl.
  5. Mix garlic, sea salt, nutmeg, and flax egg into the potatoes. Finally, mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. I recommend the dough blade in a food processor for this part.
  6. Bring a large pot of  water and pinch of sea salt to boil.
  7. Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into pieces, roughly 1″ (see photos).
  8. Drop pieces into boiling water, allowing them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove floating pieces with a slotted spoon.
  9. Serve with organic Earth Balance or a vegan cream sauce.

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Serves 4-6.

Adapted from Sweet Potato Gnocchi.