Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

They’re baaaaa-aaack!

After moving the voting to a non-blogging venue last year, we’ve brought it back this year and invite everyone to cast her or his vote for this year’s Ultimate Pumpkin Carving Champion.

I appreciate those of you who are not familiar with the pumpkin carving contest and who are just here for the food being patient as the wait for more recipes extends just a few days more.  But there will be more great eats, I promise.  On deck to be posted: balsamic hummus, apple strudel, citrus pound cake, and German potato salad.  For now, though, it’s all about the gourd art.

A review of the rules:

A two hour carving time limit, and

Bare-naked carving. No stencils, no accessories, no painting, no bells, and no whistles.  Just mad skills.

The carvers are to be judged by three things and three things only (but please cast only one vote as these are not three different categories but rather a rubric to be applied to your decision making): carving, creativity, and originality.

This year six carvers have convened with one dream: to be named the Ultimate Pumpkin Carving Champion of 2011 and to be given the bragging rights associated with the title.

A review of how it works: Please consider the six anonymous entries for this coveted title (pictures are posted below).  Post a comment that contains your vote for the pumpkin most worthy of being called the best of 2011.  This is where destinies are realized and dreams are shattered.

Voting will be open until Thursday at midnight and the winner will be posted on Friday.

Happy Halloween, and let the games begin!

The contenders, in no particular order:

Filigree Fright

I'm a Witch's Cat on the Full Moon. How Would You Look?

Hat Bee Howl Oh Bean!

E.T. Phoned Home

SpooooOooooky Cliff

Cauldron of Cookies. "Now what starts with the letter C? Cookie starts with C! Let's think of other things that start with C. Uh..uh...who cares about da other things?!" C is for cookie and that's good enough for me.

Please leave your vote in the comments below!


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Repeat after me:  this is not a health food.

Despite it being a breakfast food, this is not the type of thing that rings a golden halo of healthy smugness over your head as, say, a bowl of bran cereal or a tall glass of fresh pressed green juice would.  It is exactly the type of thing, however, that will have you dancing around in tippy-toes of joy in front of your oven as you eagerly wait for the timer to go off.  It is the type of breakfast that pulls bleary-eyed sleepers away from happy dreams and warm beds and into the kitchen on cold mornings.  This is dessert showing up as breakfast at your doorstep on Halloween.

I saw these on apartment therapy a few weeks back and promptly booked marked them, knowing that I would have to have them.  I made them for a leisurely Sunday breakfast and was so glad that I did. As they do require some advanced prep work, they are not a spur-of-the moment breakfast, but they are perfect for special occasions like holidays or birthdays.  Be aware that this recipe makes a lot of rolls. If you are not feeding a crowd, I recommend halving the recipe.   I made the whole thing and was able to send one pan full over to our neighbors to enjoy, as well.

To adapt the recipe, I swapped out the dairy ingredients for their vegan counterparts.  I also swapped out white flour for a mixture of whole wheat and spelt flours (to attempt to assuage feelings of guilty decadence),  cut down the sugar by just a touch, and I swapped in Rice Nog for the milk to add just that much more holiday goodness to each bite.  I also swapped out individual spices for pumpkin pie spice because I love that stuff at this time of year.


I also have a confession to make.  I took a few of the leftover rolls the next day and slathered them in some maple butter cream frosting I had leftover in my refrigerator from a batch of cupcakes I had made earlier in the week and served them for dessert.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Over the top decadence.  My sweet tooth swooned.  And that is how you make a food item multi-task.



Pumpkin Rolls with Brown Sugar Glaze
Adapted from The Kitchn at Apartment Therapy

(instructions are verbatim except for my substitutions)

¼ cup water
1 package yeast
1 cup Rice Nog
½ cup Earth Balance butter
¼ cup sugar
1 15 oz can pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups spelt flour

½ cup Earth Balance butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped pecans

½  cup Rice Nog
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Meanwhile, warm the Rice Nog and Earth Balance in a small saucepan on the stove top until the EB is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Let the Rice Nog mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch – NOT HOT. Then stir in the yeast and the pumpkin. Add the salt and all of the flour all at once, stirring until all the flour has been absorbed. Squish it between your hands if you’re having trouble incorporating the last of the flour. The dough will be sticky, but should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flower.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-3 hours. Do not panic if it does not get very large in bulk.  It will be OK.   After letting it rise, you can punch the dough down and refrigerate it overnight or continue shaping the rolls.

To shape the rolls (either immediately or with the refrigerated dough), sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and dump the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle and then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a rectangular shape about a half an inch thick, longer than it is wide. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough’s surface and on your hands.

Melt the Earth Balance in the microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the pumpkin pie spice. Spread this over the rectangle of dough, leaving an inch of bare dough at the top. Sprinkle one cup of the toasted pecans over the dough, if using. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.

Rub a tablespoon of soft Earth Balance into the bottom of two 9×13 baking dishes, two 9-inch cake pans, or a combination. (I used one oval baking dish and one glass pie dish)  Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick (confession: I made mine bigger, probably in the 1.5 – 2” range).  Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little wiggle room on all sides to rise. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise until they fill the pan and look puffy, 30 minutes for already-warm dough and 1 hour for dough that’s been refrigerated.

About 20 minutes before baking, begin heating the oven to 375°. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to look toasted around the edges. Rotate the pans halfway through cooking.

While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the Rice Nog and Earth Balance. When the EB has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted.   Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave



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December 31st is a day to take stock of the year passed, a day to celebrate our gems and recognize our challenges in order to capitalize on these opportunities for improvement in the coming year.  I personally enjoy this occasion to formally recognize one year’s passing and ready myself for the possibilities of the year ahead. Isn’t that really what is at the heart of the celebration of the New Year:  all of the possibilities contained within the yet unturned pages of the new calendar?  Possibility, if it were an emotion, could easily be hope – the thing that drives us, lifts our spirits, and makes us look towards the future with enthusiasm and gratified anticipation.  The new year is a blank slate upon which we can write our hopes, dreams, and goals.

Come January 1st, however, we should not sweep the previous year under the rug – we should enter the new year armed with the accomplishments that were celebrated, lessons that were learned, and growth that incurred during the previous twelve months.  In that spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you all our favorite recipes from the Outpost for 2008.  These recipes will definitely be making repeat appearances on our table in 2009.

I wish each and everyone of you a very happy, healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2009.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

The Best of the Outpost in 2008

The Best of the Outpost in 2008

Working from the top left to bottom right:

Danish Braid

French Yule Log

Green Papaya Salad


Small Tarts

Jambalaya Stuffed Eggplant

Pineapple Poppy Seed Ice Cream


Pumpkin Pie

Lemon Gems

Noodle Kugel

Seitan Pot Roast Brisket

Raw Papaya Banana Pie

No Piggies in Blankets

Roasted Butternut Squash, Potato, Apple, and Caramelized Onion Bisque with Pepita-Poblano Garnish

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake


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Imagine my pleasant surprise when I read this introduction to this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge:

“This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.”

Why the pleasant surprise? For one, I had been hoping to make a Yule Log this holiday season and this DB mandate was just the kick in the butt I needed to make it happen. Two, a French Yule Log differs from its genoise and buttercream counterpart in that it is a frozen confection – perfect for a holiday treat on Maui.

Perusing the 18 page document that contained the recipe did, admittedly, give me pause. A French Yule Log contains no fewer that six elements, which include a ganache, a mousse, and a – gulp – crème brulee. Good grief – yet another recipe that would attempt to bully me around my kitchen with its decidedly un-vegan swagger! This dessert is layer upon layer of eggs, butter, heavy cream, and gelatin. It was going to take one heck of a makeover to make this girl the belle of the vegan ball.

This recipe involved the six required elements all layered together into one frozen cake like dessert. This month’s hosts, though strict in their requirement that all six elements be included, left a lot of room for freedom in flavor choices. I decide to give my Yule Log a Maui flavor with coconut and macadamia nuts. Upon doing this recipe again, I may try to flavor the custard with coconut milk instead of vanilla, and I might try to incorporate some fruit flavors into it – mango, papaya, banana, guava, or lychee would be especially nice and would compliment the coconut, macadamia, and chocolate already present in the log.

For past DB challenges I have veganized the recipe straight from the original; this time, however, I decided to call upon several resources to assist in the makeover: my favorite vegan confections cookbook (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) and my trusty kitchen companion, Google. Element by element, here are the choices I made:

Element #1 –Dacquoise: I utilized the recipe as was written, only subbing in Ener-G “eggs” along with some baking powder and apple cider vinegar (to give the cake a wee bit of lift) for the three eggs that were called for.

Element #2 – Dark Chocolate Mousse: I considered subbing in a vegan chocolate mousse, but instead I utilized a vanilla custard recipe that I used in these tarts back in February. I really love the flavor of this custard and I wanted something to lighten up the other chocolate elements included in the Log.

Element #3 – Creme Brulee Insert: My jaw dropped at this one. I was a bit stumped as to how to create a vegan crème brulee, so I took to Google and a search for “vegan crème brulee” returned with this recipe. Vegan Visitor is a blog that I frequently read so I was more than happy to give it a go (I was really happy that I did – I look forward to making this recipe again on its own and “brulee-ing” it the next time.).

Element #4 – Praline Crisp Insert: This involved making praline paste. I used the praline paste recipe from our July DB challenge, only this time I replaced the hazelnuts with macadamia nuts in order to create a more “Maui” flavor.

Element #5 – Ganache Insert: I used the chocolate ganache recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Element #6 – Dacquoise: I again utilized the creative expertise of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and used the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

This recipe involved numerous steps, produced a lot of dirty dishes, and required two days to make. That said, it was all well worth it. This dessert is pretty darn impressive – and, I’ll let you in on a secret: unless you decide to tell them, no one will know that it’s vegan. I promise you. Serve it to your most discerning “vegans must only eat nuts and berries” loved ones and bask in their stunned expressions when, after gobbling up a slice, you share the secret with them.

Why the stunned expressions? This dessert is seriously decadent. It really is numerous desserts all wrapped up into one chocolate frosted confection, desserts which, on their own, are all decadent and rich: custard (mousse), crème brulee, praline, ganache, etc. Leave it to the French to decide to pile it all onto one plate in one very pretty package! (Gotta love the French!) As you really only need a tiny sliver to enjoy it(I recommend accompanying it with a nice cup of coffee or tea), you can serve a crowd with just one Yule Log. This is definitely not a “Wednesday-after-work” sort of dessert – this is a special occasion dessert. I highly recommend that you bookmark this dessert and trot it out at your next special occasion to entertain a crowd.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go paddleboard myself around the ocean to burn off the calories consumed in the making of this dessert!

French Yule Log

Element #1: Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

½ cup + 1 tbsp almond meal
2/3 cup flaked coconut
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Ener-G “Eggs”
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal, coconut, and the confectioner’s sugar. Sift the flour into the mix.

2. Beat in the “eggs”, baking powder, and vinegar, then mix in the sugar until combined.

3. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it. Spread the batter onto the parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc…) and to a height of 1/3 inches.

4. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, until golden.

5. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2: Vanilla Custard (in place of Dark Chocolate Mousse)

Recipe can be found here.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

I used the Chocolate Ganache recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it.

Element #4 Praline Crisp Insert

3.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 2/3 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp macadamia nut praline paste (recipe can be found in this post)
1 cup Rice Krispies

1. Melt the chocolate and EB in a double boiler.

2. Add the praline and the Rice Krispies. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.

3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5: Crème Brulee Insert

Vegan Visitor’s recipe can be found here.

Element #6: Chocolate Icing

I used the Fluffy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.


1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup flaked coconut

Toast in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until golden. Keep a close eye – this can go from toasted to burnt very quickly.


The order of elements is:

1. Dacquoise
2. Custard
3. Creme Brulee Insert
4. Custard
5. Praline/Crisp Insert
6. Custard
7. Ganache Insert
8. Dacquoise

1. Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there.

2. Spread one third of the Custard component on the Dacquoise.

3. Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the Custard. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the Custard.

4. Spread second third of the Custard component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

5. Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by Custard. Lay it on top of the Custard you just spread into the mold.

6. Spread the last third of the Custard component on top of the Praline Insert.

7. Gently spread the Ganache Insert onto the Custard leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

8. Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.

9. Freeze until the next day.

The Next Day:

10. Unmold the log and set on plate.

11. Cover the cake with the frosting. Gently press the toasted coconut and macadamia nuts onto the tops and sides. Return to the freezer.

To Serve:

Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than 1⁄2 hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Run a sharp knife under hot water, wipe off the water, and use to make slicing the log easier.

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Happy Hanukkah!

Though I am not Jewish I grew up immersed in the culture and, oftentimes, coveting it. Thus, when an opportunity presents itself, I like to celebrate (and, of course, indulge in one particular rite of passage: prepare traditional foods and enthusiastically enjoy them). Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, has many foods associated with it: latkes, sufganiyot, and dairy. Fried foods are symbolic of the limited supply of oil that lasted for eight days, and dairy is symbolic of Judith (Yehudit) who saved her village from destruction.

For our Hanukkah dinner, I made potato latkes, noodle kugel, challah, and a pear-walnut cake with honey-orange syrup. I felt assured that all would turn out well, but I had my concerns about the kugel. You see, I’ve never actually experienced kugel – I have only heard the tales of woe and horror from my Jewish friends and, as such, steered well clear of any kugel offered to me (a far easier feat once I went vegan). This year, however, I decided to tackle the kugel. According to Wikipedia,Kugels may be sweet or savory. The most common types are made from egg noodles (called lochshen kugels) or potatoes and often contain eggs, but there are recipes in everyday use in modern Jewish kitchens for a great diversity of kugels made with different vegetables, fruit, batters, cheese, and other flavorings and toppings.” I chose a Martha Stewart noodle kugel recipe that is both sweet and savory.

My concerns arose when I looked over the recipe, and the trepidation set in as I began to assemble my ingredients. The combination of flavors appeared to be so unlike any other I have tried – and, more importantly, have enjoyed. This dish was truly jumping into the unknown for me. The other source of concern was how rich the dish must be: the original version called for 2 cups of sour cream, 1 cup of cream cheese, 6 eggs, 1 cup of butter, and 1 cup of sugar – oh my! Not only did I sub in vegan options for the sour cream, cream cheese, butter, and eggs, but I also reduced the quantity of each. Traditional noodle kugel also calls for wide egg noodles, but I used lasagna noodles that I cut into smaller pieces and they worked beautifully.

Personal growth can only occur when we take risks and step outside of our comfort zones; the same can be said about the growth of our culinary prowess. This kugel was delicious, and it was, most definitely, the belle of the ball at our Hanukkah dinner. Sure, the challah received its fair share of praise, and the latkes enjoyed their time in the spotlight, but it was the kugel that had people coming back for more. The bonus? It tasted even better the day.

Happy Hanukkah!

Noodle Kugel
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance or other butter substitute, melted, plus more for dish
Coarse salt
1 pound lasagna noodles
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup (8 ounces) Tofutti sour cream, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) Tofutti cream cheese, room temperature
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, Drain noodles; set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a pizza cutter to slice the noodles in half lengthwise and then in thirds widthwise. Put back into pot and set aside.

2. Put oil and sour cream into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until combined. Mix in 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup Earth Balance, and the cream cheese. Set aside.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar, the cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apples; gently toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until soft and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir apples into sour cream mixture; pour over noodles. Add the raisins and toss gently to combine. Pour into prepared dish. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons butter over noodles; sprinkle with remaining sugar.

4. Bake until set and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

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Lemon Gems

When I opened up the December issue of Gourmet, I was instantly drawn to one very sparkly, very pretty, very glittery cookie. But do you know what’s even better than a pretty face? Substance. The object of my affection was filled with fluffy cream.

I set out to make these Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies on Thursday evening, in anticipation of bringing them along to my many meetings on Friday. The recipe in Gourmet instructed me to place “scant teaspoon” sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. My cookies were going down on the pan as chubby tablespoons. When they came out of the oven, I laughed out loud at the idea of making sandwich cookies out of them – they would have been the fattest cookie sandwiches ever. Well, maybe not ever. I believe that the long ago forgotten Oreo Big Stuff still holds that title.

But they would have been uncomfortably big for people to eat. So I ditched the sandwich idea and just piped the lemony icing right on top of each cookie and served them up as singletons. People were singing their praises all Friday long.

I was instantly enamored of these cookies. They are so darn pretty. And the taste … oh my goodness. They are good. These are perfect holiday cookies: glittery, pretty, and delicious.

Lemon Gems
Recipe adapted from Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies – Gourmet, December 2008

Makes about 50 cookies


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks Earth Balance (or butter substitute of choice), softened
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
Sanding sugars


1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ stick Earth Balance, softened

Make cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silipat sheet.

2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.

3. Beat together Earth Balance and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in zest and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture just until a soft dough forms.

4. Put sanding sugars in different bowls. Roll a scant tsp of dough into a ball and drop into sugar, turning to coat. Reshape if necessary and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls 3/4 inch apart, until baking sheet is filled.

5. Bake until tops are slightly cracked but still pale (bottoms will be pale golden), 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Form and bake more cookies on second baking sheet.

Make filling:

6. Beat together all filling ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Transfer to sealable bag and snip off a corner. Pipe about 1/2 tsp filling on top of each cookie.

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Spritz Cookies

After the cake debacle left me with no sweet treat for my guests, I kicked into overdrive to find an adequate replacement that I could make with the clock ticking. As I scanned my cupboards for inspiration, one thing jumped out at me, a most unsuspecting item: a box that looked like it came to me straight out of 1972. It was a cookie press that I had scored new in the box for $1.99 several years ago. It remained new in the box in my kitchen as I had never even opened it to make use of it.

I quickly found a recipe for cookie press cookies from Martha Stewart that looked easy and for which I had all the ingredients on hand. I subbed in Earth Balance for butter and canola oil for egg yolks (2 tablespoons of oil per each large egg yolk the recipe called for). To make the dough festive, I divided it in half and mixed in green food coloring to one half and red food coloring into the other half. I topped the cookies off with some sanding sugars before popping them into the oven.

I could not believe how easy these cookies were to make, or how easy the cookie press was to use. Literally, just point and shoot! I can’t believe that for all this time I have been missing out. Now I want to make spritz cookies every day … just because I can. One trick that I did develop was to use two cookie sheets, but only put one in the oven at a time, so as to chill the other. I had found with my second batch that the dough coming out of the press did not stick to a hot cookie sheet. As one batch baked, I let one sheet cool over my sink and stuck the dough and press into the fridge to let it chill. I found that this system worked quite efficiently for me.

My secret for perfectly done cookies is to pull them out of the oven before they look done. If you leave them in until they start browning they are, in my opinion, already too far gone. I know that some people enjoy the crispiest cookies the best. Admittedly, I am not one of them. For these types of cookies, in particular, I enjoy a nice crisp outside that yields easily to a soft inside. To achieve that effect, I timed these cookies at exactly 10 minutes. I sacrificed the first batch by letting them go for 12 minutes, which resulted in very crispy browned edges and bottoms. They did not end up the trash, though – I set those aside for the extra crispy lovers among us to enjoy. I did not, however, put them out for all to see!

Spritz Cookies
Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 6- 8 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Earth Balance (or other butter substitute of your choice)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
3 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Add canola oil and mix, then add flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

2. Fill a cookie press with the dough, and turn out cookies 1 to 2 inches apart onto a non-oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sanding sugars.

3. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

One of my guests who enjoyed these cookies asked about any sweetener substitutions I made. Oops – busted! Despite my commitment to cutting out refined sugars, the two holiday recipes I’ve made thus far this season – fruit cake and these cookies – have found me sneaking sugar back in. We discussed the difficulty of mitigating health resolutions and ingredient substitutions with tried-and-true traditions. Have any of you had success with substituting some of the naughtier ingredients in traditional holiday recipes with their nicer and healthier counterparts? If so, please share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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