Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cookies for a Wedding, Forks Over Knives, Bye Bye Birdies

One of my oldest best good friends is getting married at the end of September.  She's not having one of those stupid weddings that we've all been to a hundred times with the DJ and the ugly bridesmaid dresses and the church and cliches.  Instead, she's having one of those awesome, great-times weddings that each of us only gets to go to a handful of times in our lives.  There's going to be a real band playing, not a wedding band.  The bridal party does not contain ladies only, there will also be some gay men, and we can wear whatever we want to wear ("Just look hot," she told us, "and be comfortable").  It's being held on an organic farm out by Chester County, not at a church, and it is not being officiated by a religious figure.  Actually, my father is officiating the wedding.  You must understand that Rosalie is a very old, good friend of mine and of my whole family.  She's cared for my family in sickness and been witness to some of our most intensely-personal moments.  My friend Kristin and I were her birth partners for the natural childbirth of her son, Ocean.  She and I lived together for many years.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is because COOKIES!

It has become apparent to all of my friends and family over the past few years that I'm, like, really, really into cooking and baking.  During Rosie's bachelorette party weekend at the beach, I was hurrying to get out of my apartment in Pittsburgh after work and rush over to Ocean City, NJ, but I still managed to grab, like, some peanut oil, soy sauce, Ener-G Egg replacer, corn starch, bouillion cubes, and rice, figuring I could cook up a simple Asian-style stir fry if I just went to the store and bought some tofu and veggies.
This is actually a picture taken a different time I made this randomly at my dad's house.  It was less-good in this picture because somehow I failed to adequately crisp the tofu, and I overcooked the veggies.  FAIL.  It was way better when I made it for the bachelorette crew, but there are no pictures from that time.

I had also made and brought zucchini muffins using zucchini from my own garden before they committed suicide.

So, anyway, Rosie was kind enough to ask me if I would want to make cookies for the wedding.  Something Autumn-themed and sophisticated.  Two-hundred and fifty (250) of them!!!!

Now, I'm not caterer.  I've never cooked professionally, and never made a really high volume of anything.  But I thought, you know, why not?  And I started to experiment with recipes.

The first one I tried was Autumn Clouds Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies from from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.
Nothing like taking pictures in your dark kitchen in the evening, huh?
But I quickly eliminated this recipe from the running.  They're not sophisticated.  They're not even very good.  They're too soft and fluffy and don't store well enough to be able to make them the morning before the wedding and serve them the following evening.

Then I got to really thinking about what sort of thing I wanted to make.  It should taste like maple syrup, I thought.  And be kind of crunchy.  In my mind, I imagined the kind of crispy and crumbly almond cookies you could buy at Chinese restaurants, except with a really strong maple flavor.  I looked through all of my books and finally discovered this description in Veganomicon of Terry's Favorite Almond Cookies: "These crisp cookies are inspired by the kind one might find in their local Chinatown; flat, crunchy, with a distinctive almond aroma but without the obvious texture of chopped almonds."  Yeah, OK, now we're talking!

What's more, the recipe contains brown rice syrup, which a bit of Google-sleuthing easily allowed me to replace with maple syrup.  Then I went online and bought two pricy but critical things: grade B maple syrup (better and stronger than grade A) and pure maple extract.

I changed the recipe only slightly to make these into almond-maple cookies.  Took out a teaspoon of almond extract, added a teaspoon of maple.  Used 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/2 tablespoon more almond milk instead of the brown rice syrup.  Presto!  Almond-maple cookies.
They really are uber-cute, but next time I'll press them down more so they'll end up flatter and crispier.  I thought they might spread, but they didn't, so I flattened them only very slightly.  I used a whole almond on top instead of sliced ones because I thought that it might be more sophisticated-looking, but what do you guys think?  Should I use sliced ones so that you can get some almond crunch goodness in every bite?  Or is it worth the sacrifice for the elegant simplicity of a single almond?

In other news, I just watched Forks Over Knives for the first time and isn't it funny how you can realize you're so close but not doing well enough?  I made fun of not using oil a bit before, but I think I'm going to give not using oil a real try.  And... I'm going to... cut down on... my baking.  But I don't wanna!  I mean, I'll do my best to eat more whole foods meals.  I've already got the whole plant-based diet thing down, so that's cool.  I really was not expecting this movie to end up changing how I ate.  I was all, "Yeah, plant-based, cool, I know."  It's that whole foods part that I need to really improve upon.

Maybe I'll actually pick up a raw cookbook.  I cannot believe I just typed that.  But.  That blogger at Almost Vegan released a raw cookbook not too long ago, and her blog is, like, real awesome & junk.  I'll get it as soon as I've got the cookbook-buying spirit.  In the meantime, I think I should try some more Happy Herbivore recipes because she's all about the oil-free, whole foods way of cooking.

And, in other other news, the mourning doves took off today... 
...but they left their poop behind for me to remember them by.
I must admit that yesterday, I went out to look at them and I was like, "You guys are big now, it's time to take off, kiddos."

Seems like only yesterday, they looked like this:
Memories!  Good luck to you, little squabs.  It's a big world out there.


  1. That sounds like my kind of wedding... and the cookies look good too :)

  2. Wedding cookies, how exciting! I like the look of the sliced almonds, personally, plus they are easier to eat than one whole one. But i get the simplicity thing, too. Maybe just put a little fan of 3 sliced almonds in the middle of each cookie?

  3. I think those maple-almond cookies look great, and I would probably opt for the classy singular almond thing. :) Good luck with the baking, that is an intense amount of cookies. I've only catered once but it was only for 10 people! Well then there was the time my band made 100 gingerbread cookies for a Christmas performance...which wasn't easy so good luck! And aww, that's so thoughtful of the birds to leave their poop behind. :)

  4. I think that, in the end, laziness will drive me to use a single almond because 250 is just a whole lot of cookies for me to make on a Friday morning before driving across Pennsylvania to the Philly area to attend a rehearsal dinner sort-of thing. Maybe I should take my breaks where I can get them?

  5. On your recommendation I made the cookies from 'Vegan Diner.' I made them larger than the recipe called for, as I only got 12 cookies instead of 18. (didn't realize they were going to spread as much as they did!) I cooked them 2 minutes longer to accomodate their larger size. Although they were not soft, they were awesome!!! Seriously, how does Julie Hasson do it? There was hardly any oil in there and they were fantastic! Thanks for the tip : ) I've yet to make a bad recipe from her book. Her brownies are killer, too. By the way, you should try Practically Raw! I loooove it so much and I had absolutely no interest in raw foods until reading Amber's blog. Going raw does not have to be an all-or-nothing thing. : ) Also, I admire your self-taught gardening skills!

    1. They weren't chewy? How odd!

      It's true, Julie Hasson is amazing. I will try her brownies even though I'm not much of a brownie person unless there are also bananas or some other fruit in it. Of course, I only say that until there are brownies in front of me, and then I'm all like, "Nom."

      So many cookbooks, so little time! But, yeah, Practically Raw is right up toward the top of my list. Especially after the super-yum raw "tacos" I wrote about in my most recent entry.


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