I grew up on a beef and hog farm in Woodbury County.
We had meat for every lunch and dinner and sometimes for breakfast. I was in 4-H and showed pigs at the Woodbury County Fair. At the end of the fair, the pigs were sent to the slaughterhouse.
My dad mainly raised feeder cattle, which means he bought them after they were taken from their mothers on another farm and brought to ours. They were screaming for their moms when they arrived.
I have seen calves become cattle and eventually be sent to the slaughterhouse. While I felt sad when I saw my 4-H pigs (which I loved) and the cattle heading for the slaughterhouse, it was a way of life for us.
I really didn’t think about how different my choices might be until many years after I left home for Iowa City to go to college and where I stayed after graduation. I knew from a young age that I loved animals, especially cats, and I was heartbroken every time I saw an animal in pain. I knew farm animals had romantic relationships with other animals, loved their babies, had unique personalities, and felt pain.
Yet I continued to eat meat.
When I got more involved in animal rescue, including volunteering at a shelter for cats with special needs, I began to realize that I could no longer love and cherish some animals while eating others. . I became a vegetarian.
I knew I was being hypocritical in continuing to eat dairy products and eggs, because chickens and dairy cows are subjected to the same cruelty as animals raised for meat consumption, but I was not ready to give it up. Finally, a few years after giving up meat, I also stopped eating dairy and eggs.
The hardest part of going vegan wasn’t giving up the cheese, as many people do; rather, it was abandoning baking as I knew it. I grew up cooking with my mother. We had traditions that were important to me, like baking rhubarb cake and chocolate zucchini in the summer, cookie cutters and peanut flower cookies at Christmas, brownies to share at potlucks or to take away on family vacations, and the preparation of my grandmother’s no-cook meals. cookie recipe, which was a family favorite.
During my first year in 4-H, my mom and I spent the summer trying out various chocolate chip cookie recipes in an effort to find the perfect one for me at the fair. These cookies earned me a blue ribbon.
These traditions are especially important to me since my mother died of cancer shortly after graduating from high school. I have her recipes, some of which are handwritten, and preparing these recipes helps me feel closer to her.
When I became a vegan, I started looking for vegan recipes for some of my favorite baked goods, and the first recipe I looked up was for chocolate chip cookies. I was so happy when the first one I tried was delicious.
I kept looking for great vegan baking recipes and was thrilled when I found the Nora Cooks website (https://www.noracooks.com/). She’s become my favorite vegan blogger and I’ve made many of her recipes for cookies, cakes, bars and frostings.
I was also thrilled when I discovered Country Crock Vegetable Butter. It comes in the form of sticks and is an easy and delicious substitute for butter in baking.
As I found delicious vegan recipes, I realized that I didn’t have to give up my family baking traditions just because I’m vegan. I can still make Christmas cookie cutters and peanut flowers, brownies and no-bake cookies to share with my friends and family.
I continued those traditions with my own daughter, and we created new traditions, like baking and decorating die-cut sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. I put the frosting and she drizzles.
Vegan baking has become one of my passions. I love cooking for my family and friends, and it’s a way to unwind after a stressful day. I’m so happy that vegan cooking is not only fun and delicious, but also cruelty-free.
I’d rather find vegan recipes than invent them myself, but I decided to try veganizing my mom’s rhubarb cake, and it turned out great. I prepare it using vegetable butter and a flax “egg”.
I love sharing this cake with my family and friends. Brings back fond memories of cooking with my mom, especially the sound of chopped rhubarb. I don’t have a garden full of rhubarb like we had when I was young, but at this time of year and throughout the summer, rhubarb is available at most grocery stores and farmers markets. .
This cake is very moist, as is the case with most cake recipes prepared with fruit. It was our favorite rhubarb treat when we were growing up. It’s a delicious offer for a picnic or a potluck.
Rhubarb Cake by Nancy Holcomb
For the cake:
- ½ cup vegan butter
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 flax “egg” (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water; let stand a few minutes to thicken)
- 1 C. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp plus 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup sour milk (1 cup vegetable milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
- 3 tsp chopped rhubarb
- ⅓ C brown sugar
- 1 C. cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the vegan butter and sugar until well combined, using a stand or hand mixer. Add the flax egg and mix until combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and sour milk. Mix until smooth; do not overmix. Stir in rhubarb.
3. Pour into an oiled and floured 9×13” pan. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the cake. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
(Adapted from “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking” by Donna Diegel)
My most requested recipe is my no-bake cookies. Even though it’s not my grandmother’s recipe, I think of her every time I make them. I still have her handwritten recipe for no-bake cookies, which I will always treasure, and I’m grateful that she introduced me to the magic of these cookies. They’re a delicious combination of chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, and coconut that you’ll find hard to resist. Be careful, you won’t be able to eat just one, two or even three!
- 2 C sugar
- 4 tbsp. cocoa powder
- ½ C vegan butter or coconut oil (I use coconut oil)
- ½ C soy milk or other vegetable milk
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
- 1 C. vanilla extract
- 3 C rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ¾ C shredded coconut
1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, butter or coconut oil, vegetable milk and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds; then remove the pan from the heat.
2. Using a large wooden spoon or spatula, add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Add the rolled oats, chopped walnuts and grated coconut, and mix well. Allow cookie mixture to cool slightly.
3. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, place the hot cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Press lightly with your fingers to make a flat cookie. (I put them in the freezer to cool and firm them up, but that’s not necessary.)
These cookies can be stored in the freezer or at room temperature in airtight containers or Ziploc bags. I prefer to keep them in the freezer, because when kept at room temperature they are a bit crumbly. When you’re ready to eat or share them, they do well at room temperature. I often grab these cookies for bake sales, potlucks, and to treat my friends and co-workers.
Amy Holcomb lives in North Liberty and works as a Supported Community Life Counselor at Goodwill of the Heartland. She shares her home with her dog Fluffy and several cats. She volunteers for the Johnson County Humane Society, the Iowa Humane Alliance, and the Iowa Farm Sanctuary.
For questions or comments regarding the Eastern Iowa vegan community, email [email protected] or visit www.veganeasterniowa.org. Everyone is invited to join the VCEI on Facebook and MeetUp