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The unhealthy vegan.

I'm not vegan, but my sister and a few friends are, so I've learned a thing or two. The problem with a lot of vegan recipes is that they try to hard to be high-fibre, gluten-free, yada yada. But you know what? Animals don't care about your cholesterol level. There is no reason to try to make cookies out of spelt. Make these treats for your non-vegan friends to convince them it's not so bad, or if you're feeling nostalgic.

Some of these recipes are also on other food pages, but I thought it would be nice to include them anyway, for the sake of thoroughness.

A few notes and tips:

An easy way to make an existing recipe for baked treats vegan is to find one that is egg-free and substitute vegan margarine for butter, but there's often "something missing" from the taste. Often, that something is salt! Non-vegan margarines use whey powder to make the flavour "more like butter" but it is also quite salty, as it is a by-product of cheese-making. Adding a pinch or two of salt can make a real difference.

Before you go crazy squinting at the ingredients list of every kind of margarine to see if it is vegan: look for brands advertised as "salt free," "low sodium," or "lactose free."

Try looking for nut-based recipes, too. The nuts provide umami - a flavour that connotes richness (it's the Japanese word for "yum").

Barley malt powder is another good way to get the "yum" into recipes; it is available at Korean groceries as well as some health food stores.

I know some do not consider refined sugar vegan. I'm not getting into that debate, but be warned: these recipes use sugar. No honey, though.

Vegan brownies
Vegan shortbread
Vegan Viennese icebox cookies
Vegan bread
Vegan self-saucing chocolate pudding
Vegan pecan crescents
Spiced cashews and pecans
Mincemeat Tarts

1 cup pecans
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (divided)
1 cup vegan margarine (I use Fleischman's)
3/4 cup + icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Toast the pecans in the oven by spreading in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baking for 5 minutes at 350F.

Put the pecans in a food processor with the salt and half of the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (it will start to smell good, too).

Cream together the margarine and icing sugar. Stir in the remaining flour and the flour/nut mixture. Form the dough into a ball and chill for at least one hour.

Shape tablespoonsful of dough into crescents. Bake for 18 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet at 325F. Roll the hot cookies in more icing sugar.

Vegan Viennese icebox cookies

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup margarine (I use Fleischman's)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
sliced almonds

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler; allow to cool.

Cream together margarine and sugar. Beat in extracts and melted chocolate.

Add flour gradually, using your hands as the dough becomes stiff.

Roll dough into a log on a sheet of waxed paper, then flatten the log into a bar about 1" x 2.5". Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm (do not freeze).

Slice into rectangles 1/4" thick, press sliced almonds in a single layer into the tops, and bake at 375F for 10 or 12 minutes, or until just firm.

Vegan self-saucing chocolate pudding

Easy recipe magically separates into a chocolate cake with chocolate sauce bottom!

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
6 TBS cocoa
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups hot water

Combine first five dry ingredients, stir in wet ingredients. Mix in chocolate chips. Divide between 4 greased oven-proof 2-cup bowls.

Combine remaining sugar and cocoa; add hot water and mix until dry ingredients are dissolved. Pour evenly over batter in the four bowls.

Bake at 375F for 25 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving - the sauce is hot! It's nice served with a scoop of (vegan) vanilla ice cream to keep you from burning your mouth.

Vegan shortbread

1 cup margarine (I use Fleischman's)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour

Cream together margarine and sugar. Beat in almond extract and salt.

Add flour gradually. Shape the dough into logs about 1 1/2" around, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for at least one hour.

Slice logs into 1/4" thick rounds. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 12 minutes at 325F.

Vegan brownies

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (I use Fleishmann's)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup barley malt powder
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream together sugar and margarine. beat in vanilla.

Sift together dry ingredients. Mix into margarine mixture alternately with water. Srir in chocolate chips.

Spread in an 8" x 8" tin lined with greased waxed paper. Bake 25 minutes at 350F., or until centre is no longer wobbly.

No-knead bread

A version of this first appeared in the New York Times, where it took the world by storm! And, it happens to be vegan.

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1 TBS salt
1 5/8 cup water
cornmeal

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in water. Cover with waxed paper and leave on counter 14 hours.

Dump dough out on floured counter top. Fold in half a few times. Shape into a round, fold side down.

Sprinkle a piece of waxed paper with cornmeal. Place dough on waxed paper, sprinkle with cornmeal, and top with another sheet of waxed paper. Let rise 2 hours.

Put a heavy (I use cast iron) 6-quart dutch oven in the oven and turn heat to 425F.

After 30 minutes, dump dough fold side up in hot dutch oven. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 20 minutes more.

Mincemeat Tarts

(warning: the filling requires several days to blend)

3 large granny smith apples
1 cup mixed dark raisins, sultanas, and currants
grated zest of a large orange
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
tsp allspice
tsp cloves
cup brown sugar
cup oil (traditionally, you should use grated suet, but I wanted to keep it vegan)
cup calvados

Peel, core, and chop the apples into small bits. Mix with raisins, currants, sugar, and oil or suet. Season with zest and spices. Sprinkle with cup calvados, cover and chill for three days, stirring once in a while (I keep it in a tupperware container in the crisper and give it a shake every so often).

When ready to bake tarts, transfer the mincemeat to a saucepan and cook, stirring, over low heat for twenty minutes, or until apples are soft. Stir in remaining cup calvados, and divide among 12 tart shells. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes.

Spiced Cashews

2 cups whole raw cashews
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
cayenne
cinnamon
nutmeg
chili powder

Spread cashews in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Warm in the oven of 10 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with mixed salt and spices. Toss to coat. Return to oven for 10 minutes more.

Spiced Pecans

2 cups pecan halves
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
tsp nutmeg
tsp cloves
tsp ginger
tsp mustard powder

Spread pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Warm in the oven of 10 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with mixed salt and spices. Toss to coat. Return to oven for 10 minutes more.

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