After I returned from New York City, I had exactly two days to prepare before we were due to drive down to Virginia to visit my mom and family. And by "prepare" I basically mean an entire day of baking! Daiku and I tried to massively cut down on gift-giving this year (and asked both our families to also not give us too many things) but we did want to make some homemade treats for our families. (Also, selfishly, homemade baked goods meant I'd have something to eat, too!)
Here is what a day's baking yielded:
(From left to right)
- Gingerbread people (I made men and women)- recipe: PPK
- Chocolate chip cookes- recipe: Fairly Odd Tofu Mom
- Peanutiest Blondies- recipe: Vegan Diva
- Hazelnut Cardamom "Chloe" Cookies- recipe: Vive le Vegan
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies- recipe: Vegan With a Vengeance
- Coconut-lime cookies- recipe: Vive le Vegan
I also used the gingerbread people to make the crust for...
Pumpkin chocolate cheesecake! (The recipe came from the blog What the Hell does a Vegan Eat, Anyway? which is always a fascinating and inspiring place to visit). This was my first vegan cheesecake, and the process was a bit complex (involving a water bath, etc.) but it was so worth it for a special occasion. This picture is the cheesecake just out of the pan, after traveling for a day- still looks good, huh?
My not-so-vegan family just loved it, and everyone thought the chocolate-ginger crust was the best part. I can't wait to experiment with other cheesecake flavors!
I'd been saving so many of these recipes to try for a special occasion, and am I ever glad that I did. This is the most holiday baking I've ever done, and I think I'll continue to expand on the tradition next year!
To add to the long list of winter holidays that people celebrate, Iranians have "Shab-e Yalda" which is an old pagan celebration of the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice, which fell on December 21. This night is celebrated by gathering with friends and family, and food!
Here's dinner at my aunt's house.
This is "kalam polo" or rice pilaf with cabbage, which usually has beef in it, but which my aunt had veganized for me by replacing the beef with lima beans, which I love. The crunchy bits of rice are called "tah digh" which is considered a delicacy, flavored with oil or butter and saffron.
One of my favorite aspects of Iranian cuisine is that every meal is served with a variety of fresh herbs and crunchy fresh and/or pickled vegetables. Above, you can see spicy pickled eggplant.
Of course, Shab-e Yalda would not be complete without the pomegranate, which symbolizes rebirth and luck. (And for me, it is also a reminder that spring and summer, with their vibrant colors, are not too far away!)
We were only in Virginia for a few days. We wanted to do so much (like go to Sunflower restaurant, a vegetarian place I've been wanting to try for a while now!) but the days before Christmas were so hectic, and the traffic in this part of the country (right outside of Washington D.C.) is so atrocious, that we didn't really get to do much. Before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to people and packing up our cookies for the long drive to St. Louis to visit Daiku's family.