I love cookbooks, and this summer I’ve been cooking my way through a couple vegan cookbooks, whose authors are considered among the best recipe developers in the vegan world, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Why vegan, if I haven’t given up meat completely? I’ve gone through phases where I only ate vegetarian but at the moment I would consider myself a flexitarian, meaning I’m eating mostly vegetarian/vegan with one or two meals a week in the fish or chicken department. This strategy, which the Guardian also calls “vegetarianism with cheating,” can help reduce the amount of land, water, and energy used in industrial livestock farming while also being good for your health. Americans like to categorize, and sure, the “flexitarian” label might make people uncomfortable because it doesn’t fall neatly into one category (I think we like to define ourselves as firmly in one camp or in another), but it is more of a step on a continuum from carnivore to vegan. For more on why following a vegan diet some of the time is good for you and the planet, read former NY Times columnist Mark Bittman’s excellent column on the subject.
I also like a cooking challenge, which to me means trying to prepare things that taste just as amazing in their vegan form as they would with meat, without resorting to “soy crumbles” or “chickun” or any products that attempt to replicate beef and chicken. I like the idea of incorporating more vegetables into my diet, and for those of us who grew up with what the British call “meat and two veg” dinners, where veggies were the bland side accompaniments to a nice juicy steak or roast chicken, this requires rethinking how we construct our idea of a meal.
Enter the local public library. A couple years ago, I first checked out Moskowitz and Romero’s Veganomicon, which contains hundreds of recipes, got overwhelmed by which dishes to cook first, then returned it. This time around, I checked out the book, made several delicious things (more about those in another post), decided I had to have the cookbook, and bought my own copy so I could write in it. (I like to make notes and give recipes star ratings.) Some of the recipes can be rather time consuming, but I read on a vegan forum that Appetite for Reduction, authored by Moskowitz alone, had quicker recipes that were also lower calorie. I checked out a copy of that one too and have been really impressed – I will definitely buy it soon. At the moment I’ve also checked out a few other vegan cookbooks, Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry and the Oh She Glows cookbook by Angela Liddon. Both are also looking promising, and I love their creative use of ingredients – I really don’t find myself missing the meat at all.
Then I found out Moskowitz & Romero had a cupcake cookbook too. I wondered, could vegan cupcakes taste just as good as “regular” ones with milk and eggs? The baking show Cupcake Wars thinks so – several of their winners have made vegan cupcakes. So I tried a recipe from Moskowitz’s website, The Post Punk Kitchen, and was pleasantly surprised. I bought Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and have been happily baking many of their amazing cupcakes. I also gifted a copy to one of my friends, who has been embarking on this cupcake journey with me. One of the highlights of my weekend last week was when she came over and we made lime icing, then swapped coconut-lime cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes with butter cream icing.
All the recipes we have baked from this cookbook have been outstanding: vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, s’mores cupcakes, green tea cupcakes, and coconut-lime cupcakes. The frosting is usually some combination of Earth Balance and vegetable shortening (Crisco or Spectrum). The cookbook also has a few gluten free and lowfat versions that I have yet to try, but my favorite cupcake is still a basic yellow cupcake with chocolate butttercream frosting. Make some of these now: you won’t be disappointed, and I guarantee that no one will notice the missing milk and eggs.
- 1 cup soy, rice, or almond milk, unsweetened
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tblsp. cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
- 1/4 cup Earth Balance
- 1/4 cup shortening (Crisco or Spectrum)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, no lumps
- 3 Tblsp. soy or rice or almond milk
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350. Fill your muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray with nonstick spray.
- Mix milk and vinegar together and set aside.
- Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
- To the milk mixture, add oil, sugar, and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients to wet until no lumps remain.
- Fill cupcake tin evenly, 2/3 full, and bake 22 minutes.
- Remove to cooling rack and do not frost until completely cool.
- For frosting, mix shortenings together in blender until fluffy.
- Add cocoa powder.
- Add sugar 1/2 cup at time, mixing in a dash of milk between each addition.
- Add vanilla, beat 3 minutes until fluffy.
- Refrigerate for a while if you want it firm enough to pipe through a pastry bag.