One of my favorite things about the concept of reducetarian-ism is that it is accessible to absolutely everyone. My friend Amanda exemplifies this beautifully. Amanda is from North Carolina and their relationship with meat, butter, eggs, etc., is not just preferential but deeply cultural. When they eat green beans cooked with ham, fried chicken, and sausage gravy and biscuits made with their grandmother’s recipes, they are transported back to happy childhood memories and the warmth of a grandmother’s love. In fact, Amanda finds that cooking these recipes is a way to honor their grandmother, as they originally learned how to cook side by side with her in their grandma’s kitchen. Nonetheless, Amanda’s cultural connection with animal products doesn’t stop them from seeking to reduce their environmental footprint and cruelty to animals. It may not be feasible to expect Amanda to give up their cultural and emotional connection to animals as food, but they show that you can maintain that connection while actively reducing your consumption of animal products in other ways.
Amanda (left) poses with their grandmother and older sister
When Amanda is not relishing in the nostalgia family recipes bring them, they are continuing to use cooking and baking as a creative outlet. They have realized that veganizing recipes is actually a fun challenge, one that requires a knowledge and intuition of food science. Amanda now enjoys creating new recipes or improving upon old ones, especially ones that aren’t associated with their grandmother. (However, I will note that this isn’t always the case – they recently made the best vegan macaroni and cheese I have ever had, and I don’t even really like mac and cheese.)
Most recently, Amanda brought in a cake to share with some colleagues. We have a vegan in our workspace, who often does not get to partake in yummy baked goods people bring in. Using their savvy baking skills, Amanda modified a recipe for ricotta coffee blueberry cake to make it vegan. As someone who definitively lacks in savvy baking skills, I cannot imagine translating a non-vegan recipe into a vegan one…I’m the type of person that needs to follow the recipe to the letter. But luckily, we have people like Amanda, who use their skills, even if they are not vegan, to the benefit of all. Amanda substituted apple sauce for eggs, and vegan butter and ricotta alternatives for dairy (in addition to a few other ingredients just because they didn’t have them on hand). That’s it! The rest of the recipe remains the same, and the original not in any way easier than the modified, vegan version. And I have to say, as someone who still occasionally eats dairy and egg products, there was absolutely no sacrifice in taste.
Amanda was kind enough to share their modified recipe with us, so we all can enjoy in our own homes!
Vegan Cinnamon Spice Ricotta Coffee Cake
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) earth balance vegan buttery sticks
1 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup tofutti vegan ricotta cheese
½ cup water
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable/canola/any flavor-neutral oil (added to compensate for loss of moisture because I didn’t have any blueberries!)
For the Streusel Topping:
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 stick earth balance vegan buttery sticks
Preheat oven to 350 F
- Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In an electric mixer, mix together vegan butter and brown sugar until smooth, 5-8 minutes.
Note: I did this with a hand mixer and mixed for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add applesauce, vanilla, vegan ricotta, water, oil and vinegar to the butter and sugar mix and mix until just blended.
4. Scrape it into a lightly greased baking pan. An 8×8 pan will yield a high, thick coffee cake (and take longer to bake). Larger pans will yield a thinner cake. Note: I used two large loaf pans, and filled each about ¾ full of batter after greasing and coating the inside with flour.
For the streusel topping, mix together the brown sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add vegan butter, using your fingers or a fork to break it up into pea-sized pieces. Evenly sprinkle the streusel on top of the batter.
Note: I put one layer of streusel topping in the middle of the batter. This added flavor to the batter but also made it take a little longer to bake. This does a better job of distributing the sweetness and spice throughout the cake rather than just on top of it.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick or knife stuck in the cake comes out clean.