For the month of June, I've decided to go vegan. It's more of a personal challenge to myself than a moral or ethical decision. Growing up in meat and potatoes country, I've never struck issue with eating meat. Both sets of my grandparents were farmers and ranchers, raising crops and cattle and working off the land. The farm was my second home when I was younger. Rooting around the big red barn and watching cattle through barbed wire fences was a regular pastime. I was raised on meat from my uncle's farm. He made a homemade sausage so good that my family would freeze it so we could enjoy it every month of the year.
You could say, in a way, that farm life is in my blood—that meat is in my blood.
Even so, I've always been curious about veganism. It's intimidating to me, honestly. I rely so heavily on dairy and egg products in my everyday life, typically grabbing a yogurt and an egg sandwich for a meal. Part of the reason I wanted to challenge myself with a month of veganism was to force myself to explore new foods, eat more fruits and vegetables, and get cooking in the kitchen. I wonder how my body will feel after a month without consuming any animal products. I fear I will have a hard time eating enough protein.
A year and a half ago, I was a vegetarian for a few months. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision so much as it was a necessary one. Living in Montreal, Quebec, was expensive and I simply couldn't afford the high price of meat as a poor college student. However, becoming a vegetarian in a big city was almost effortless. Becoming a vegan in North Dakota, where grocery stores only hold three packages (not brands or types) of tofu will be an entirely different story. Vegans are few and far between in meat and potatoes country. I'll certainly be out of my element, but that is just another difficult part of the challenge.
Over the last week I've slowly been emptying my cupboards of "forbidden foods." I've finished the milk, eaten the yogurt, consumed the cans of soups, and said my goodbyes to my dear friend, butter. Despite my best efforts to clean out the cupboards, I still had a shelf of soon-to-be banned baking supplies. These cookies were born out of the last of the forbidden foods, featuring toffee pieces and chocolate chips.
As I experiment with this new lifestyle over the next month, I have a promise I want to make to you. I am going to do my best to continue to keep my foods approachable, delicious, and to use familiar, everyday ingredients you already have in your kitchen. My baking and recipes may be vegan, but they don't need to shout it from the rooftops. I'll keep you updated on this journey of mine—I can only wonder how it will play out.
These toffee chocolate chip cookies are an "everything but the kitchen sink" cookie, featuring a little bit of this and that. Oatmeal, chocolate chips, toffee pieces, and chopped almonds come together to create a crunchy, hearty cookie that just begs to be dunked in a glass of milk. These cookies are dangerous when lying around the house. You might find yourself sneaking three or four in a day's time.
Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields about 2 dozen cookies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sliced or chopped almonds
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used miniature chocolate chips)
3/4 cup toffee pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and continue mixing until well blended. Stir in the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until mixed. Stir in the almonds, chocolate chips, and toffee pieces.
Drop by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. The longer you bake them, the crunchier they will get. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. These cookies have a tendency to stick to the baking sheet if not removed promptly.