Friday, November 5, 2010

The Home Stretch (?) In the Oven: (Optionally Vegan) Sugar Cookies

First, thanks to all of you who entered the giveaway!  I'm lucky to have such wonderful readers, and I so appreciated the things you said about me and about my blog.  I wish I could give you all a prize ... some day, you will have to come over for tea and biscotti.  But in the meantime, congratulations to Rebecca, who is the winner of the $25 gift certificate to King Arthur Flour! (Do go visit the site; they were nice enough to actually sponsor this giveaway, and they are a terrific company.)  Rebecca was lucky number 15.  You should all go read her blog ... she's an amazing woman and a powerful writer. After losing her precious daughter Lillian Grace at 22 weeks, she and her husband are now pursuing embryo adoption. You will read her story, shed tears with her, and be inspired by her ability to hold on to hope.

The start of my third trimester seems to be coinciding with the start of my winter holiday baking here at A Half Baked Life.  It's sort of fitting, I guess, given my tendency to multitask, to have things in multiple "ovens."  My 28 week appointment is next week, along with a glucose test (which I'm sure I will fail, considering how much apple pie and Halloween candy and other junk I've been snarfing down of late ... I'm just waiting for them to tell me I'm pre-diabetic), and then I start going to the doctor every two weeks.  I'm also starting our hypnobirthing class next week (I went with the full class instead of Lamaze refresher, despite my guilt about leaving Ian for another night during the week, on the theory that it would be better suited to my approach to birth, and that it would require S. and I to schedule time to be together).  Ian is pretty much moved up to the attic now, and I'm entering "dumbfounded" mode.  It seems easiest not to think about the reality that's about to hit (is this really going to happen? I'm so not ready ...), and focus on what's cooking in the kitchen instead.

Each year I hold an open house for the students in my undergraduate research program.  There are just shy of 200 of them in the academic year-long program, and by December, I'm usually pleased to see that they're really beginning to get it ... most of them are sophomores, and started out the program with little, if any, knowledge about research (and keep in mind that this encompasses all disciplines, from philosophy to aerospace engineering).  As the program has grown, it's become harder and harder for me to get to know all of the students, so the open house is one of my rare opportunities to get feedback from them as a group, and to start feeling out prospective peer advisors for the following year's program.

For the past few years, I've been baking for this event, inspired by a colleague of mine who hosts a technology showcase in December and bakes literally thousands of cookies (what makes it even more incredible is that she's observant Jewish, and she does "Christmas" baking better than most Christmas-celebrating people I know).  While I don't bake thousands of cookies, I do bake a few hundred, in about six different varieties.

These sugar cookies are always my first go-to cookie for the holiday season, because they're easy to make, freeze well, and are most popular with the undergrads.  They're pretty adaptable for vegans, and if you don't have a rolling pin and cookie cutter, you could always just roll them into 1" balls and flatten them to about 1/4" discs, or roll them out and use a glass to cut them into circles.  We usually make stars and trees, which seem fun and festive without being too "Christmassy," something I tend to be wary of, considering the vast diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds my students represent.  (One year I made cows and lobsters, but the students just thought that was too weird.  I also have an umbrella cookie cutter, a lighthouse, a fire truck, and a U.S. map.  Ian likes that one.)

What's in your oven?

Sugar Cookies

3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. butter or vegan margarine (in this case, lose the salt) or 2/3 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
1 slightly beaten egg or EnerG egg replacer
2 T. cream (vegans use coconut milk or vegan cream cheese thinned with just a little bit of water)

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt (a Cuisinart is great for this if you have one; if not, just use a large bowl and a whisk).  Cut in butter, and add the remaining ingredients.  Continue to mix until you have a big, fairly stiff ball.  Roll out cookies as desired to about 1/4" thickness, cut and decorate with sprinkles if you want (you could also frost them afterward).  Place cookies on a baking sheet and 5-8 minutes, or until the edges are just begining to turn brown.  Let cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, and gently remove with a spatula.  Eat any of the ones that break as you're taking them off the sheet.  It's OK; the calories all fell out of those ones.
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  1. Very exciting you're in the home stretch!

    My oven - I only have one baking anything. Last night it had mizuna and pecorino quiche. Twas yummy - I've got lots of mizuna in the garden. It would be great topped with home grown tomatoes, so I can't wait until we have some!

  2. Awe, thank you for the kind words & the gift card...I'm so excited!!! Will be thinking of you next week and hoping things go smoothly for your appointment! Woo-hoo at entering the third trimester!!!
    Those sugar cookies look amazing...I'm sure the students will love them! You are so inspiring with all your baking! Have a lovely weekend my friend!

  3. Those look so delicious, I might have to try this recipe out!

  4. I'll fail my glucose test when the time comes as I was diabetic with babe. I love love vegan cookies, man those put me in the holiday mood.

  5. Oooooh, can I come? Those cookies look so good!

  6. tasIVFer: Mizuna quiche, I wish I'd thought of that! We have had so much these past few weeks.

    Everyone: c'mon over. :)

  7. OOOoohhh delish. There's nothing in my oven right now, because the apartment doeesn't have one! But when I get home next week I plan to go on a baking spree - maybe lemon shortbread or something like that to start with.

  8. Good luck at your 28 week appointment - hopefully the sugar demons stay away and the glucose test checks out okay.

    I love sugar cookies. There's something so simple and GOOD about them, and I'll take them any day over fancy-schmancy ones (though, truth be told, I like the fancy-schmancy ones, too...I'm an equal cookie-snarfing eater:).

  9. These cookies look great & your little guy is precious! Thanks for swinging by to enter my giveaway :)


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