I've got mixed feelings about Christmas. For a lot of reasons. Sometimes I feel like there's too much pressure to make everything just right, or too much pressure to see everyone and do everything. I carry guilt around if I don't spend enough money on gifts for people, or if I don't get the right gift.
The last few years I've taken a different approach, and worked hard to let go of the expectations I'd set for myself. One year I chose not to participate in gift giving at all, or tried not to. I try to live with the idea that experiences and memories are most important. That tangible gifts aren't always the best choice.
So much of any major holiday can be built around expectations. They're right up there with assumptions, in the way that they're pretty much the worst. In my experience they lead to miss-communication, and disappointment.
But not everything has to be a disappointment, take gingerbread cookies for example. A cookie I've always avoided. The ones I had in my past were hard, crunchy and dry. The flavor was too strong and I spent the majority of my childhood and adult life thinking that I hated gingerbread.
Well it turns out that I actually love gingerbread, as long as it's made the right way. Think a soft, fragrant dough that's chilled overnight to absorb all the best flavors. After they're cut into the cutest little shapes they're baked for just the right about of time and left out to cool. Top them with a delicate royal icing and suddenly you've got yourself the perfect holiday treat. I've used a mixture of vegan butter and coconut oil for the fat in this recipe because I love the flavor of the vegan butter in these cookies. For a purely coconut oil recipe I'd recommend this one by OhLadyCakes.
High expectations Josie would freak out over the icing not being perfect, or the shapes not perfectly symmetrical. Go with the flow Josie is just happy to be icing cookies while she face times with her sister.
This year I'm even more focused on letting things go. I feel armed and ready to face the holidays, with my metaphorical backpack full of skills that help me breathe through my anxiety, and find the positive in every frustrating situation. I'm going to focus on not putting so much pressure on myself, and instead focusing my efforts on spending time with the people I care about.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and that you focus on taking care of yourself. Merry Christmas!
Vegan Gingerbread Cookies Aquafaba Royal Icing
yields about 3 dozen cookies
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, firm
- 1/4 cup vegan butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 Tablespoon aquafaba *
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar will work)
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1.5 oz aquafaba
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract *
- Food Coloring (I used Wilton gel colors)
Begin by combining the coconut oil and vegan butter in a large mixing bowl, then slowly add in the granulated sugar until fully mixed. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and ground cloves.
Add the flour mixture and the molasses into the coconut oil mixture, mixing as you go. For the last step, add in the aquafaba and vinegar until you have a thick dough. Divide into equal parts and shape into discs. Wrap them in clear plastic wrap and chill overnight. **
After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and roll one disc out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut shapes using a floured cookie cutter. Place each cookie onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat and chill in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking for 6-8 minutes. Repeat by rolling out dough and cutting shapes until you're out. The dough works best when its chilled, so don't be afraid to take breaks and pop the discs back in the freezer if needed. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
To make the icing, whisk the aquafaba until it becomes frothy. Then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and tint with your desired color. Use a piping bag to decorate however you see fit.
Finished cookies will store in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
*Chickpea brine! My absolute favorite vegan egg replacement.
** Flavor is best when you chill overnight, but a minimum of 4 hours will do if you're short on time.
Recipe adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook