Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me: Vegan Thumbprints

It's been over a month now since our freak October snowstorm.  Though it's definitely cooler and the days are definitely shorter, it hasn't quite felt like winter since then, and for the first time in many, many years, it's not going to snow on my birthday, or on the day before my birthday, or on the day after my birthday.  (If you want the story about why it used to, click over here ... it's worth the read.)

There's a lot weird about this birthday: no snow, S. is traveling for business, I'm not going to an office to work.  S. was feeling pretty guilty about this, I think, and left me with a box of chocolate, which I have managed to restrain myself from eating in its entirety just yet.

I'm not feeling alone, though, oddly enough.  Despite the fact that it's been a year of change and uncertainty, I feel more supported, in many ways, than I have at almost any other time in my life: I have a wonderful family, friends both far and near (including former colleagues who stuck with me as I've questioned my professional identity), and a network of people that I've gotten to know here, in the blogosphere, whom I call friends, too.

I've been studying the trees as I've been running lately; now that their leaves are gone, you can more easily see the damage done by the snowstorm, when the snow sticking to the leaves made branches so heavy that they snapped like toothpicks.  I feel sorry for them, and I've been wondering which ones will endure the winter, which ones will come back in a different shape than they'd been before, but thriving nonetheless.  There's an important trend I've noticed, too: the ones that seem to have fared the best were the ones that were stuck together in clumps, whose branches supported the other trees despite the weight of the ice.  Yes, they lost limbs, too.  But they lost those limbs only on one side, or randomly all over.  They are the walking wounded, the survivors.

It's a useful metaphor.  We shouldn't expect to come out of the freak snowstorms of life unscathed.  We change shape, we lose "limbs"; we may not even be immediately recognizable.  But if we're lucky, we're standing close enough to other people weathering their own natural disasters that we support each other, reaching out to collectively bear the weight of the ice.  I'm thankful, this year, that I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by so many other survivors.  If you're reading this, you are among them.  Thank you for the gift of you.

I didn't want to bake an entire cake for myself and my son, who eats mostly frosting anyway, so I decided to whip up a batch of cookies that I could stick a candle into, and kill two birds with one stone: these could be Christmas cookies, too!  Many of the vegan recipes for thumbprints on the web have "healthy" ingredients like honey, or oat flour, or flax.  These are basically unapologetic sugar and nut cookies, the kind I remember my mom making every Christmas (though she made them with eggs and butter).  The two great things about vegan baking is that it's a lot easier to scale the recipe (I halved this one for today) and that you can eat the dough completely guilt-free (which I did).  I hope you'll join me with a cup of your favorite beverage as I blow out my candle and celebrate another year of being here.

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
(adapted from Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar)

1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. nondairy milk
2 t. vanilla
1 2/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts
1 c. jam of your choice

Beat together oil, sugars, nondairy milk, and vanilla.  Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.  Mix to form a stiff dough (it shouldn't be too dry, but should roll easily into a ball).

Pour the chopped walnuts into a bowl.  Roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2" round, and place them on baking sheets about 1" apart.  Push your thumbprint into the center of each ball, taking care not to break them.

Bake 16-18 minutes, until cookies are firm.  While the cookies are still warm, scoop about 1 t. (or however much you like) of jam into the center of each cookie.  Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to allow them to finish cooling.
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  1. Happy Birthday to you, indeed. And I'd like to thank you for the gift of you - you've been one of the trees in my clump, keeping me from snapping. Thanks for sticking by me even as I've been absent from your place. Much love and many well wishes for your birthday. xx

  2. a happy happy birthday to you!! those cookies look delicious-- enjoy :)

  3. ¡Feliz cumpleaños!

    I hope you have a very happy day with your two littles ones and some uncooked cookie dough! ;)

  4. happy birthday! so appy that you blew out candles. you seriously can't not blow out candles on your birthday!

  5. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Those look really good!

  6. Happy birthday! I love unapologetic cookies. Cookies aren't supposed to be healthy. And I really do need to try vegan cookies...because I eat the dough anyway, and then worry about salmonella.

  7. What a wonderful analogy. :-) Happy Birthday!

  8. Lovely metaphor. So much truth in it. I am definitely not the shape I once was but I wouldn't even be walking if not for my fellow trees.

    Happy Birthday!!!!!!


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