Introduction and Cookies!

               Welcome to Ichiban Vegan!
               This is my blog that covers all kinds of seasonal vegan recipes that I create and/or adapt.  Since I decided two years ago to cut all animal products from my diet and spending budget (no more leather and cheese sandwiches!), I have been on a mission to sharpen my culinary skills and master the use of all plant based ingredients.  All the while, I try to make food that I would want to eat even if I wasn’t vegan.  I’ve found that by thinking this way, I can sell my food to non-vegans fairly easily.  I mean, let’s face it.  If you hand someone a plate of delicious pumpkin snickerdoodles, you don’t really need to tell them that you didn’t use eggs or butter, right?  Until, after they’ve eaten 10 of them, you say, “Oh, so those are actually vegan!”, will they look at you in astonishment and/or horror.  
               Luckily, throughout the past two years, my family and friends have been very supportive of my lifestyle.  I was hesitant at first to attempt to cook things from scratch with the idea that my skills were not as honed as they should be.  In order to produce palatable vegan food for those who aren’t too keen on vegetables can be a bit of a challenge.  Most people when they hear the term “vegan” automatically think of a block of tofu and a big question mark.  They also like to throw you pity parties whenever they mention meat.  “Oh, but you can’t eat that…”, they say with a false sense of remorse.  I just want to say that I really find this funny; I don’t find it offensive at all.  I always laugh along with people when they make fun of my diet. I realize it seems extreme to many people, but I also realize that everything is relative.
                 In case you didn’t notice, I’m taking this opportunity to tell my vegan origin story.  I know no one wants to hear it every single blog post, but they may be curious later on.  Many people ask why I live and eat the way I do, so now they have a convenient place to go read about it (and I can get on with my day…just kidding =P).  Going back to when I was a senior in high school, I decided to give up meat for New Year’s because one of my best friends was a vegetarian and she had introduced me to classic veg foods like falafel and hummus.  These are staples in my diet now, but back then they were strange and exotic treats that I was in awe of.  (WTF are chickpeas?!)  Since I found new foods that were meat-free, I thought I could give up meat and be totally satisfied.  Well, I was right.  My diet then consisted of lots of pretzels, grilled cheese, and frozen veggie burgers made from GMO soy.  YUM.  Well, at least no cows were harmed in the process.  (Or so I thought!)  
                  The funny thing is, I still ate fish for years after I gave up meat.  I became what I found to be a “pescetarian”.  I loved the diet.  I ate all the sushi I wanted and didn’t feel guilty.  Because, let’s face it, fish don’t have souls, right?  That was my thinking.  Or rather, I didn’t think of it at all.  Inside, I knew I was contributing to the death of a living thing, but I let my taste buds run the show.  To this very day, I still remember how delicious fresh fish tasted.  It is the one thing I miss the most.  I often tell people that so they understand that I’m actually a former person (I’m being sarcastic, I hope you realize! ^_^).  I also wanted to stay true to the way I grew up.  My all-time favorite comfort meal was broiled fish and gohan, Japanese white rice.  
                   My heritage is definitely something that has inspired me to cook the way I do.  I am a cluster of ethnicities, one of which is Japanese.  My paternal grandmother (Ba-chan!) is from Japan.  On both sides of my family, I come from WASP ancestors who hail from Ireland, England, Wales, Poland, and Germany.  There’s also a teeny bit of Spanish and Italian Catholics in there. (That and the Japanese really throw people off.)  I’ve always loved learning about peoples’ ancestry.  It’s one of the great characteristics of America.  You never know who will show up (or what food they’ll bring)!  I always try to mix things up by taking inspiration from other cultures in my cooking.  I think that is one of the best ways to connect with others apart from language.  
                   Sometimes, vegan diets can be boring (just like any diet!).  One of the ways I make food interesting is to use different ingredients.  The word ichiban means “number one” in Japanese.  I used this term in my blog name because I hope to create the best possible vegan food that I can with all types of ingredients.  Most of my food will be free of gluten, if not all of it.  Gluten-freedom comes from my other side of the family that carries celiac disease.  I’ve grown up with my grandmother being gluten free and eating that way when I visited her.  She always struggled to find good packaged foods to eat.  My mom was diagnosed later in life once her symptoms became too unbearable.  I haven’t been diagnosed, but I decided recently to try gluten free cooking and baking just to force myself to become more creative.  I realize that, like anything else, variety is the spice of life!  So, using wheat for everything is probably not ideal.  
                  As far as why I’m vegan, I direct you to Food, Inc. and The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life.  Those books peaked my interest in the diet and also in the ethics surrounding said diet.  My decision was an “experiment”, just like my decision in high school to be a pescetarian.  As for the first few weeks, I was upset I couldn’t eat sushi.  Other than that, giving up dairy and eggs was easy.  I was already drinking almond milk all the time, so that wasn’t an issue.  In a culinary sense, eggs are only useful to bake with in my opinion.  Otherwise, they often made me sick when I ate them anyway.  Not an issue there, either.  After two years, I barely think about cheese or eggs as food.  I don’t crave them at all.  (Plus, there are some REALLY good ways to substitute them.  I’ll just say, thank God I’m not allergic to nuts or seeds!).

                     So, here I am: a vegan in her early twenties with a food obsession.  What else is there to do but blog about it?  =) Now, with all the origin story crap out of the way, I’d like to get to the fun part: COOKIES!  These snickerdoodles are a fall celebration in your mouth.  Snickerdoodles are traditionally a Christmas cookie in my family.  My grandma would make them with us every year and I couldn’t get enough of them.  Once I started baking on my own, I made sure to make them for Christmas whether anyone else wanted them or not. (More for me!) 
                   I decided that I didn’t want to wait to eat my beloved snickerdoodles this year.  As soon as October rolled around, I switched into Fall Mode.  That means cinnamon on EVERYTHING!  Cinnamon toast, cinnamon oatmeal, cinnamon tofu…it’s all fair game.  Naturally, I think of snickerdoodles when I think of cinnamon.  But, in order to appease the retail gods who tell us that we should put pumpkin into everything once September comes, I decided to alter my recipe.  Pumpkin-doodles, it is!  I used pumpkin pie spices to coat these cookies for a little dimension.  Really, this recipe isn’t that original.  But, these are mine!  I adapted them from my family’s go-to recipe for every Christmas. 
       I love snickerdoodles for their airy and crumbly texture.  These are a little bit more moist in texture from the pumpkin.  This is definitely not a bad thing.  They almost resemble a cross between a cookie and a quick bread.  You will find out sooner or later that I am a bit obsessed with quick bread, my favorite baked good in the universe (along with it’s portable alter-ego, the muffin).  Please feel free to enjoy these cookies with friends and family, the way they should be (ie, a batch for you and a batch for them!). 

                       Here’s to a new blog and new beginnings!  I hope after this rant you will still follow me on my vegan journey to achieve deliciousness!  Kanpai (Cheers)!

  Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
   Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
   Yield: approx. 25 cookies

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance/coconut oil/non-hydrogenated shortening, softened
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar + 1/4 cup sucanat/organic cane sugar (or all coconut sugar)*
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tb flax meal + 3 Tb water, mixed together and let sit until gelatinous 
  • 1/2 teaspoon gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups GF all-purpose flour (ie, Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (any kind)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, ground ginger, and allspice) 
  1. In a medium mixing bowl beat solid fats with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the flax “egg” mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla extract. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. In a small mixing bowl combine the 2 tablespoons sugar and spices. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the sugar-spice mixture to coat. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment.**
  3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Makes about 25 cookies


     * I find that the cookies appeal to those who aren’t used to coconut sugar’s mild sweetness with the addition of the cane sugar or sucanat.  If you prefer your cookies more subtly sweet, omit this.  
     ** You can also use a silpat.  Otherwise, lightly grease your cookie sheet to avoid a catastrophe.  =)

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