When Drew and I first started dating I told him that my family would have cookies for dinner every Christmas Eve, and it wasn’t too far from the truth. My parents would bake cookies weeks in advance, and on the night before Christmas they’d set out plates and plates of them on the table, and it was always my favorite meal of the year since it was the one time I could get away with eating only chocolate. There were other things on the table too—-meatballs sometimes, and cheese and crackers and chips and vegetables and dip, and fondue when we went to my grandparents’ house—-but I usually just concentrated on the cookies. I still do.
We’ve always had the same cookies, and just about all of them were passed down from some family member or another, mostly from my great-grandma, who seems to have gathered up her recipes from 1950s baking books and Midwestern newspapers. I’ve had those cookies for as long as I can remember, and after first going vegan I figured that I wouldn’t be able to have them anymore. On our first vegan Christmas we made cookies from vegan baking books; they were good, but they had me missing the old ones. Fortunately by the next time the holidays rolled around I knew a lot more about vegan baking and how easy it can be to turn a non-vegan recipe vegan. I made my very favorite family cookie recipes, and even though I had to use some substitutes like Tofutti sour cream (not my favorite) the cookies ended up tasting pretty much like I remembered.
I have an article in the winter issue of Chickpea Magazine for all of you vegans who would rather stick to the classic, familiar family recipes rather than track down all new plant-based ones. Drew took the photos and I came up with some tips for converting old recipes, with an emphasis on the “old,” since family recipes tend to date back to times when weirder (and definitely not vegan) ingredients like condensed milk and lard were used heavily in baking. Included in the article are some of my favorite family cookie recipes, turned not only vegan but gluten-free.
I also made the cookies a bit healthier than the original versions, though you could never really get away with calling them healthy. There’s sugar and plenty of chocolate still, but I did try to eliminate most of the processed ingredients in these. Do you remember when I posted a recipe for Georgia Street Slices years ago, before we went vegan? The original version has vanilla wafers, instant pudding mix, and condensed milk; can’t you tell that the recipe dates back to the 1950s? Here’s an updated version: vegan, gluten-free, and a little bit better for you.
Georgia Street Slices
Makes 16 squares
1.5 cups pitted medjool dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp almond flour
1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
3 tsp vanilla, divided
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut milk
2/3 cup vegan dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1. For the bottom layer, put dates, walnuts, cocoa, almond meal, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tsp vanilla, and salt into a large food processor, and pulse until combined. The mixture should hold together when pinched—if not, add another date or more coconut oil. Press the dough into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan and let set in the refrigerator or freezer while you make the middle layer.
2. To make the middle layer, strain and rinse soaked cashews and place into blender along with maple syrup, 1/3 cup coconut oil, 2 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Spread over bottom layer and chill.
3. In a small saucepan or double boiler, melt 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips with 2 tbsp coconut oil. Mix well and spread over middle layer. Chill. When chocolate layer has firmed, cut bars into two-inch squares. Keep in refrigerator or freezer.