Looking Sharp

Why should bunnies have all the fun when Easter rolls around? They’re not the only lovable little herbivores to spring out of a sleepy winter funk. Right alongside Flopsy and Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, porcupines emerge to share all the fresh green shoots, fruits, and leaves now ripe for the foraging. Sure, they’re not as outwardly cuddly with those intimidating quills raised, but trust me, it’s all just a facade. Unless provoked or threatened, porcupines are about as vicious as newborn kittens.

Consider setting a place at the table for a more diverse cast of characters at your Easter feast. Engaged in the right conversation, their wits are likely sharper than their quills.

Rather than rolling out predictable bunny buns, take just a few extra swift snips to bring these steamed porcupettes to life.

Don’t be daunted by homemade bao, which are simply stuffed balls of bread dough. Fillings can be sweet or savory, from red adzuki beans to meaty seitan, depending on whether you’re in the mood for dessert or dinner. Start with a basic formula for bao dough and watch these charming creatures come to life in your hands.

After sealing the goodies within rounded parcels of dough, gently pinch one end of the ball to make it more oblong for the nose. Make many little triangular snips with very sharp kitchen shears just on top of the dough, without cutting all the way through to the filling, to form the quills. Mix together a tiny bit of aquafaba and cocoa powder and apply tiny drops with toothpicks to make the eyes.

That’s all there is to it! Just steam until fluffy, or bake if you prefer more golden brown goodness. Either way, your new Easter mascot will happily rise to the occasion.

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Ease into Easter

Watch out for seasonal whiplash. Ready or not, we’re hopping madly towards the first big family gathering since Christmas. If you’re still recovering from a brutal winter, far removed from the pastel-clad merriment of egg hunts, parades, and garden parties, fear not. There’s still plenty of time to shake off any residual frost and turn out a stunning dessert.

Inspired by the brilliant fresh flavor of real berries baked into Voortman Raspberry Wafers, these light and crispy creme-filled cookies have kept me sane in the dark days of barren farmers markets and middling fresh fruit options. Now, paired with the tender ruby gems themselves, those sweet sticks become the building blocks of even greater tastes.

Swapping bland, spongy ladyfingers for these new treats from Voortman injects new life into an Italian staple. Stacking bright, vibrant layers of flavor with the greatest of ease, anyone can assemble this masterpiece in minutes.

Be it an elegant brunch or low-key gathering with friends, it’s hard to beat this invigorating combination of rich, tangy cream cut by a touch of citrus zest, lightly spiked and softened wafers, and whole fresh raspberries. Bundle up the whole pan to go and take it away on breezy springtime picnics, since it’s surprisingly stable at room temperature too.

Served immediately, the cookies will remain crunchy for a resoundingly satisfying bite, but hold up brilliantly to delayed gratification. After a day or overnight, you’ll enjoy a more tender forkful from top to bottom, easy to slice, serve, and fully embrace with an open mouth. Go ahead, prep well in advance, so you can be ready whenever your party springs to life.

Continue reading “Ease into Easter”

Hanging with My Peeps

Come March 1st, grocery store shelves are already fully stocked with enough Easter paraphernalia to power non-stop spring fetes lasting a full month, regardless of when Easter Sunday is actually observed. For all the pastel glitter and sugar on offer, they still lack what is arguably the single most important element to a proper holiday celebration: Vegan marshmallow peeps. Peeps may have gotten a life outside of the spring season, but they will forever be inextricably linked with Easter in my mind, and vice versa. Since there was little understanding of what Easter really was in my formative years, all that in my eyes were those colorful, sugar-encrusted chicks and bunnies, staring out of their cardboard sleeves with emotionless dots for eyes.

Sweet & Sara has taken up the task of providing this essential Easter staple, easily surpassing that original standard. This isn’t the first time I’ve shared about these seasonal treats, but I’m happy to say that they’ve only improved over time. Now they too come dusted in a light coat of colored sugar, matching my fond childhood memories, but with real dark chocolate adorning each adorable shape. You won’t find them in stores any time soon, but they’re worth seeking out during this limited window of availability. Spring just wouldn’t be nearly as sweet without them.

Fine and Dandy

Indelibly imprinted into my developing, maliable mind at a young age was the fact that Easter meant marshmallows, and more to the point, marshmallows shaped like adorable bunnies and chicks, covered in sugar, and completed with beady little sugar-based eyes. Strangely fascinated by these florescent, saccharine candies, their inexplicable attraction grew as I saw them as less than an edible foodstuff, but as a toy to deconstruct and explore the inner workings.

Much like the child who is driven to pull apart the brand new flat screen tv in order to perform a technological lobotomy, I couldn’t leave those curious candy pillows alone until I found out what made them tick. Or why they existed in the first place, since they clearly weren’t meant for consumption. Early videos saved somewhere deep in the nether regions of digital storage have recorded evidence of just this; Frame after frame of my eager hands setting innocent-looking Peeps on fire, investigating the effects of microwaving, and my favorite, enlisting the help of my dad to run over them with his car. The mental image of that Peep pancake clinging with ferocious stickiness to the wheel of that tire will likely stay with me forever. For years afterward, I couldn’t pass by a display of those multicolored oddities without quietly poking them, still springy and squishy despite the plastic barrier.

Luckily, this bizarre obsession has come to pass, now that the Chicago Soy Dairy, masterminds behind the only jet-puffed vegan marshmallows, Dandies, has released their own, actually edible version. Dubbed “Tweets,” their soft pastel hues are in sharp contrast to their predecessors, and no longer appear to be the result of terrible nuclear fallout. Better yet, these subtle colors hint at actual flavors, and logical ones at that; Yellow chicks are lemon, orange bunnies, orange.

I only had the pleasure of sampling the pale but cheerful yellow mallow chicks, and while the flavor was very subdued, with just the barest hint of citrus essence, I could appreciate that it added more complexity to the confection overall. Far better than simply sugar-flavored treats, these gave me a reason to want to take a second bite. Where they really shine, however, is in the texture department. Crunchy on the outside thanks to the liberal application of granulated sugar, and fantastically soft but chewy on the inside, they are both fluffy and substantial all at once. All elements combined, that ends up as a rather terrifically addictive treat. Though they do lack the classic confectionery eyes, perhaps that’s a good thing- I have a feeling that a number of vegans might feel uneasy about chomping down on their Easter treats while the adorable marshmallows are staring right back.