As I write this, I have a batch of beef bone broth bubbling away in a slow cooker at home. I don't eat much meat (Steve's a vegetarian), but in the fall, I crave rich, dark soups, made with long-roasted bones and seasonal things like apples and onions and garlic.
We are embarking on the season of celebrations, and many of them will take place around dining tables, or center around cooking and eating. Our neighborhood markets are taking orders for fresh turkeys, Christmas goose, crown roasts, and all the varieties and cuts in-between. I love this time of year. I love pulling out files of tried and true recipes, or searching for new ones. I love the smells, and the gatherings, and the bounty. And I do love a good excuse to splurge on a nice cut of meat, even if I will be the only one in my household eating it.
That said, I also feel that this time of year is a good opportunity to reflect on the choices we make regarding what we put on our plates. This week, as I turn cow bones into soup, and butter and cream into truffles, I have tried to be mindful of these kinds of choices. It might be a bit more obvious to me, as I live with a man who makes a daily life choice not to eat animal flesh, so talking about what we put on our plates is not an unusual conversation in our household.
In fact, many of my friends have made the conscious choice to follow a plant-based diet. But does this make them morally superior "health-nuts?" Hardly. As one of my friends put it, "Sure, I'm vegan. But I still want whiskey and French fries!"
It's in this spirit that we are continually growing our vegan line of confections. Are our Peanut Butter Peepers healthy? Maybe not. But certainly we can all agree that happiness is.
I may not live on Isle au Haut anymore, but many of the values that I learned there will stick with me for the rest of my life, no matter where I choose to make my home. Being a gracious host is one of those values. Making people feel welcome, and accepted, and at ease. We don't need to be best friends, but we do need to co-exist. And a big part of that is recognizing and accepting our differences.
I originally wrote the following recipe to accommodate the growing number of Isle au Haut residents that were embracing a plant-based diet. Regular cafe patrons, as well as a rising tide of island visitors and Black Dinah Cafe customers who were, or had friends, who wanted non-dairy options in their confections. To say that the addition of vegan items to our line of chocolates and cafe offerings was inspired solely by how it would help our business's bottom line isn't completely true. But pretty close. However, I also remember what it was like for my vegetarian husband to move to a meat-and-potatoes community so many years ago. At every potluck, someone would make a special effort to make something without meat or fish. It made us feel welcome. And accepted. And that goes a long way towards not only building community, but building a better world.
Vegan Molasses Cookies
(makes about 3 dozen cookies)
1 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup cooled, mashed sweet potato (or squash, or apple sauce)
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
melted bittersweet chocolate (optional)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a stand mixer, cream together the coconut oil, sugar, molasses, and sweet potato.
- In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Beat the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined.
- Pour a layer of sugar, about 1/4 inch deep, in a round cake pan. Roll the dough into 2-tablespoon-sized balls, and then roll in the sugar. Place the sugared dough balls about 2 inches apart, on parchment lined sheet pans. Bake 8-12 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- When the cookies are cool, you may dip each one into the melted bittersweet chocolate, if desired.