Sunday, August 31, 2008


It seems that, the minute someone decides to eat vegan, they inevitably soothe themselves with images of vegan desserts to tide them over while they figure out exactly how many times they'll have to eat salad in the next 48 hours. This is great for the sheer fact that there are TONS of vegan recipes for desserts. This can be bad because, honestly, I'd be losing more weight if I weren't feeling soooo great about packing my gullet with cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream.

Either way, I'm really enjoying the world of vegan desserts - or as my mom would say, "Food that you can have a cup of tea with". Recently, while my parents were visiting us, I came up with the idea to make spelt shortbread and serve it with some lovely coconut milk ice cream and balsamic strawberries.

I took a whole wheat shortbread recipe and rewrote it to use spelt and Earth Balance. I was a little worried that the lack butter would result in a sad, tasteless shortbread, but I was mistaken (as I usually am when I think butter can't be replaced). As long as you keep the Earth Balance chilled, and the resulting dough cold enough, the shortbread crisps up perfectly in the oven.

Here's the recipe:

Vegan Spelt Shortbread

2 cups whole grain spelt flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice/organic sugar*
1 cup Earth Balance, or similar vegan margarine, cold
1 pinch salt

In a large bowl, mix together flour and sugar until combined.

Into dry mixture, drop in cold margarine. With a pastry cutter, or two butter knives, cut in margarine until the flour mixture and the margarine are combined, making pea-sized crumbles.

Knead a few times until the mixture comes into cohesive lump. You may need to chill the dough off and on if it gets too loose and greasy; I put the dough into the freezer for a minute or two before kneading and then a minute afterwards.

Press dough flat onto an ungreased cookie sheet into a rectangle or square, until it is uniformly 1/4 inch thick. I used a rolling pin to even out the top surface. Pierce the surface all over with a fork at 1/2 inch or so intervals. Most likely, there is someone who would think it's a "good thing" to have the little holes all aim the same way, but I lost interest halfway through.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes.

While still warm, cut into squares, or whatever you want -- this isn't a dictatorship. Let cool another 15 minutes on cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Make sure they are entirely cool before storing so that they stay crispy.

Voila! Shortbread!

* You can find Evaporated Cane Juice or organic sugar at your local health food store or Whole Foods-type place. It's basically slightly less processed sugar, so you vegans will not have to worry about whether or not it's been processed with the charred remains of animals (yuck, I know). It also has the benefit, for me, of reacting better with my blood chemistry, helping me avoid sugar rushes and heart palpitations that I get from white sugar and corn syrup. You could also use Sucanat, Florida Crystals, etc.


After the cookies were cooled, we served them over some store bought coconut milk ice cream and balsamic strawberries:

You can make balsamic strawberries by slicing a container of washed strawberries, drizzling a little agave nectar and balsamic vinegar over them (we're talking teaspoons here) and letting them sit in the fridge for an hour. You could also use a bit of organic sugar instead of the agave. It may seem weird to put balsamic vinegar on your dessert, but it's fantastic. =)

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I've recently embraced vegan eating as a life-enhancing choice and it's really worked out for me. Thus, I wanted to write about my experiences -- as much for me to remember the fine details as to let others know what I'm doing. Hopefully, I'll be able to collect little tips, tricks, and anecdotes, so I can look back and see where I've been and where I can go from here.

First off, it should be known that I was raised almost vegan. When I was a little kid, I was violently allergic to sugar and cow's milk, so my mom replaced those kind of things with goats milk and soy. Yes, I was the kid who didn't get to choose between plain or chocolate milk at elementary school, but instead was greeted with a cafeteria worker's rolled eyes and handed an "Ah-Soy" soymilk in a capri-sun-like foil packet. At least I got chocolate-flavored milk every day! Okay...carob. =)

I had horrible allergies and asthma if I didn't hold to a vegetable-based diet as a kid. Well, that was until my hormones kicked in at 13. The childhood asthma left me and my ultra-skinny frame started putting on some weight. I decided to try out my newfound health and fill myself with as much McDonalds and sweets I could get my hands on.

Needless to say, by the time I was 16, I went from a 29 inch waist to a 38 inch waist. Throughout college, I hit 40 inches and realized I needed to eat much much better. I started moving back into a vegetable-based diet, but kept my beloved chicken, fish, and dairy.

After college, for some reason, my asthma came back FULL FORCE. I was hacking and wheezing every morning, weak from the exertion of just breathing. A doctor prescribed Singulair, which cleared up my breathing, but only if I took it every day.

I experimented with vegetarian eating, keeping eggs and dairy in my diet. I lost a little bit of weight and I was feeling better (and was coincidentally dating a vegetarian), but the asthma still hung on, bad as ever.

Well, a few months ago, I decided to give up on milk, just for a little bit. And you know what? The asthma went away, almost entirely. I dropped all animal products beside milk when I found them in my diet. Eggs were the hardest, to be honest -- they just taste soooo good to me. It must be memories from childhood.

And now - I'm reclaiming my childhood way of eating =), to great success. My partner, Lance, and I cook and eat vegan now and we love it.

So here's to learning new things! =)