Tough Cookies

Christmas isn’t for everyone. The forced merriment and artificial optimism, sour memories that fall short of Hollywood-produced nostalgia, stressful family gatherings topped off by unnecessary expenses; it’s enough to make the most joyful person into a real Scrooge. Even the most committed holiday reveler would struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm in this harsh reality. You know what is for everyone, though?

Cookies.

Chocolate cut-out cookies, to be precise, will never disappoint. With a batch of homemade cookies, you can express how you really feel about the holiday season without coming off as a miserly curmudgeon. No one ever said they had to be decked out in colorful sprinkles or intricate icing, so why not keep it simple, classic, and versatile?

This particular recipe may just be a new staple in your repertoire. You’d never know that they’re gluten-free or vegan by their soft, toothsome texture or rich cocoa flavor. The dough comes together quickly, rolls out like a dream, and never judges you for your low spirits.

Like any good cookie dough, this one is as versatile as Christmas carols are grating.

Easily change up the flavor by switching out the extract.

A few tried-and-true additions include:

  • Peppermint extract
  • Almond extract
  • Orange zest or extract
  • Instant coffee powder
  • Coarse or flaky sea salt

No cookie cutters? No problem!

You may need to cut back on the snark without such clear messaging, but you don’t need to forgo a sweet treat altogether. Simply roll out the dough as instructed, then use a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or fluted pastry cutter to slice squares or rectangles of any size. Think of this approach as the dessert equivalent of making crackers, if that procedural reference helps you visualize the steps.

Don’t succumb to the Christmas crazies. Celebrate at your own speed, even if that means staying home and keeping holiday content completely off the program. Just don’t forget to treat yourself while you’re at it. Holidays come and go, but a good recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies is forever.

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Ube On My Mind

If pumpkin is for autumn, ube is for winter. Replacing subdued, smokey orange with bold shades of purple, there’s no denying that the vibrant hue alone is a huge attraction. Naturally sweet with subtle hints of vanilla and toasted nuts, ube is the clear winner when it comes to dessert. Start your annual holiday cookie platter with Ube Thumbprint Cookies, glistening like jewels in a sea of browns and whites, for a stand-out homemade gift that no one can refuse.

What is ube?

Let’s start by clarifying what ube isn’t. Ube are different from taro and purple sweet potatoes, despite the common misconception. Ube are yams, most commonly found in Filipino cuisine and particularly popular in desserts. Their vivid magenta pigmentation creates brilliantly colored treats, and as such, can be found as powdered and liquid extracts. Fresh ube can still be tricky to find in the US, which is why ube extract comes in handy for all your essential baking needs.

While most commercial ube extract does have added artificial flavoring, it’s the easiest, most accessible way to add that unmistakable essence whenever and where ever you crave it. When it comes to recipes with a delicate balance of dry and liquid ingredients, it’s the best way to infuse the goodness of ube without throwing off the texture.

What else is ube extract good for?

Once you have a bottle, the potential for ube extract is endless. It’s particularly well-suited for use in:

  • Ice cream
  • Frosting and icing
  • Candy
  • Lattes
  • Cheesecake
  • Pudding and custard
  • And of course, cookies!

When it comes to cut-out cookies, these are the GOAT. Easy to make, shape, and bake, this dough is a dream to work with. More importantly, the soft, tender bite and balanced sweetness makes an ideal base for any festive flavors. Beyond the ube base, put your own personalized finishing touch on each batch with any jam, marmalade, or fruit preserves you fancy. Mix and match to make every bite a little bit different!

A few fruit flavors that pair particularly well with ube are:

  • Mango
  • Apricot
  • Guava
  • Orange
  • Pear

Put a flavorful twist on tradition this year and invite ube to your cookie swap. It won’t take long before it becomes the life of the party.

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A Time and A Place For Everything

Gifting holidays can be tough, placing the burden squarely on the giver. Some people can be picky, tough to shop for, or claim to not want or need presents. What can you get for the person with everything? Well, how about more of everything!

Everything cheese straws take the irresistible savory seasoning synonymous with the very best bagels and wraps it up in cream cheese-slathered puff pastry. These buttery, flaky, and crispy morsels come together in an instant with just four essential ingredients, making them perfect for parties, last-minute guests, and effortless gifts.

What can you serve Everything Cheese Straws with?

I’m not trying to make yet another cute pun, but these savory morsels really do pair beautifully with just about everything! Think of them as bread sticks to enjoy alongside any meal, stand-alone snacks or appetizers, or coupled with a few of my favorites:

You don’t need to be a skilled baker to pull off a Christmas miracle here. Just give it everything you’ve got, and that’s the best gift of all.

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How to Build a Vegan Cheese Board

For any gathering big or small, a well-appointed cheeseboard has always seemed like the height of sophistication. Arranged just so over a distressed wood plank, discrete piles of sweet and savory morsels sparkle like jewels in a treasure chest, waiting to be plundered. Carefully curated selections manage to dance in step no matter the pairing, as if they were all destined for this stage. How is it possible to create such a winning cheeseboard at home, with little experience, limited budget, or particular tastes?

If you’ve ever enjoyed cheese and crackers together, believe it or not, you’re already an expert. Putting together a selection of snacks for grazing isn’t rocket science. Start small and keep building as the occasion demands, breaking it down into five distinct categories for easy execution.

1 – 3 Types of Vegan Cheese

This is the star of the show here so don’t hold back. Plan on at least 1 – 2 ounces per person as an appetizer or snack. For a small party, it’s perfectly fine to focus on just one superlative cheese, but it’s always nice to offer different options to compare and contrast. Think of them in three categories while shopping or cooking:

Something Sweet

Personally, I wouldn’t go with desserts like cookies or truffles, but a more moderate, natural source of sweetness. The idea is to help balance the savory notes of the cheeses, rather than overpower them. That means relying on nature’s candy with no added sugars:

  • Fresh fruit (grapes, sliced apples or pears, berries)
  • Dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs)
  • Jam or preserves

Something Salty

There’s a lot of potential overlap in this category with the following, so you can pick one or the other for a smaller spread. For concentrated pops of salty contrast, I’d suggest at least one of these:

  • Pickles
  • Marinated artichokes
  • Olives
  • Capers

Something Crunchy

Texture is critical! It’s especially important to have something crispy when you have a soft, spreadable cheese on deck. There should be a vehicle for any schmear, and maybe even a crunchy topper to finish it off:

Something Neutral

There’s a whole lot going on with the rest of the board, so it’s nice to provide some blank space as a palate cleanser. These are also great options for those that really want to put the cheese first, but not just shove a whole plain wedge of it in their mouths. Use these as fillers when you have blank space:

  • Soft bread
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Cucumber slices

BONUS: Charcuterie

If this was a genuine charcuterie board, you’d want to go heavy on the sliced plant-based meats. That, however, is a whole separate topic in and of itself. Consider it a wildcard addition if you want some extra protein to make it more of a meal.

Don’t Forget…!

There’s plenty of overlap that exists and you shouldn’t let these simplified lists restrict your creativity! Consider candied nuts for a sweet, salty, and crunchy component, for example, or a spicy pepper jam that’s more hot than sweet.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with paring it down to the bare essentials; all you need is a really great cheese and hearty crackers to start a party on the right foot. Perfect for the holidays or everyday entertaining, a plant-based cheeseboard offers a little bit of something for everyone.