Friday, May 30, 2014

Vegan Cheddar Cheese Ball

Sometimes it is true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, and sometimes you don't know what you had lost until you have it back again. My family likes to serve a certain cheese ball whenever there is half an excuse -- holidays,  parties, homecomings. Along with the cupcakes I made previously, the cheese ball was a staple in our Maine farmhouse. Unlike the cupcakes, however, I got kind of tired of it. It was the same cheese ball all the time. Then I went vegan and for a long time went without the creamy, nutty, tangy combination of flavors peculiar to this dish. Tasting my own veganized version, I was immediately transported to countless days with my family. I was also reminded that this ball is delicious.

Maybe I'll sneak this version into the next family holiday and maybe I'll even tell them it's vegan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Article: Sustainable Schmaltz

I opened my email yesterday to find a lovely article from the New York Times sent to me by the man in my life. It was about food and traditions. How appropriate! It's nice to have a guy who just gets me. Dear readers, if you enjoy what I'm trying to do with this blog, you should enjoy this article as well.

The article is about Jewish Americans reclaiming their traditional foods. Now, I grew up in an area far from traditional Jewish foods and don't even know half of foods referenced in the article (though I doubt many are vegan); but I truly appreciate the movement. It's lovely to see others viewing the past as well as the present and maintaining culture that honors both.

I'll let you read the article in full here.

Here's a snippet to entice you: 
But at last, there are signs of hope. Some older bakeries, like Orwasher’s andKossar’s Bialys, are under new management that is returning to less commercial, better-tasting breads. Russ & Daughters tracked down a Jewish baker in Springfield, Mass., who uses an 80-year-old starter from his family’s long-closed bakery in the Bronx. Now he’s back in New York and baking seriously old-school breads like schissel corn rye, shot through with rich ores of caraway seeds, and an old-fashioned dark pumpernickel baked inside a thin wrapper of light dough to protect the crust from over-baking. 

P.S. I am really tickled by the term, "sustainable schmaltz," and plan to use it with my choir as soon as possible.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vegan Surprise Cupcakes: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling

As soon as I became vegan, I knew my grandmother's Surprise Cupcake recipe was one of which I simply had to make a vegan version. The light, sweet filling hides so neatly within the plain exterior of the chocolate cupcake. The flavors are simple, yet layered; and the combination has won over many a cream cheese hater.

The original cupcakes were served at countless special and not-so-special events throughout my lifetime: BBQs, birthday parties, Wednesdays, potlucks, camping trips. I often found myself saying, "You have to come to X because my mom is bringing her famous Surprise Cupcakes!" When advertising for my master's vocal recital, and using similar enticing statements, I did have to explain that the surprise was, in fact, something legal in all fifty states. Other than that caveat, I like to keep the surprise as secret as possible. There's a certain joy in watching a person discover something unexpected and then enjoying it.

It took a few attempts for me to create this recipe, and though I'm not quite convinced it's the one, the replica, it's a delicious near miss. The filling is a bit more creamy and delicate than the one I'm seeking, and there are a few more steps than I would like; but these are some darn good cupcakes.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I, Amanda, am on the verge of my personal first veganniversary -- one year since I became vegan, and I have been doing some reflecting on what this year has meant in my culinary, dietary and personal lives. The simple conclusion is that things haven't really changed that much, except that I don't eat certain foods and I have more energy.

Digging deeper, though, there is still the fear that I am missing out on certain experiences. Food is about so much more than eating. It can be about friends, conversation, comfort, solace, laughter, memories and any number of different human feelings.

The memories aspect of eating is one that nagged at my decision to stop eating animal products. Yes, it was what my conscience told me to do; but I was afraid chia seeds and quinoa would erase all my connections to the past. In the end, old traditions cannot stop us in our search for a more just world. Just look at the history of the United States for innumerable examples. Frankly, I like having the right to vote and work and live among equals in this ever-evolving Great Experiment.

And it turns out, quinoa doesn't actually have the power to take over my life. It has its place, to be sure. But I'm still the same person, with the same memories, and with the same family as I was a year ago. So, we come to the purpose of this blog.

My maternal grandmother passed away before I came to be, and all I have left of her are stories and recipes (and a weird red light bulb filled with detergent or something). This blog was created with the recipes in mind. I want to make vegan versions of them that replicate as much as possible the dishes my own mother made for me, reading the words her mother had written delicately on now very precious index cards.

And I want to take you along for the journey. I will try to share my failures as well as my successes, as best as I can muster. You can learn from my mistakes and share my successes. Then we can tackle all the dishes that taste like home, so the vegan journey remains ever connected as well as compassionate.