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As someone who navigates life with high blood pressure, depression, and a rare case of sass-mouth, regulating my diet is something that crosses my mind only after I take down an entire pint of ice cream with a fork. I’ve always assumed it unwise to attempt any life-altering changes during the holidays, when all three of my afflictions rev like a fiftysomething dentist’s first Harley. Turns out, vegans eat at Christmas, too. Even though I’ve never considered going full on herbivore, Chef Julia Dunaway makes it sound delicious. 

After 30 years in the military and then a second career as a social worker and mental-health administrator, Dunaway was pursuing yet another life change when she enrolled at the Culinary School of Fort Worth in 2009. Fast-forward a decade, and she’s now one of the leading plant-based culinary instructors in North Texas. 

Dunaway has given us a couple of holiday-ready non-critter-based recipes for those of us who want to lose the body fat and cholesterol but none of the flavor this holiday season. 

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Savory Holiday Tofu

  • 2-4 servings
  • 1 (14 ounce) package of extra firm organic tofu, drained and pressed 
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp tahini 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup of real maple syrup, amber if available
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp of turbinado sugar
  • Minced fresh thyme, parsley, sage, and oregano 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Remove the tofu from the package, drain, and rinse with water. Position the tofu on a cutting board set on top of a baking sheet and place a second cutting board on top of it. Place a heavy object on top of the cutting boards for approximately 10-15 minutes to press the liquid out of the tofu. Alternatively, use a tofu press.

Cut the tofu into two slabs across the whole block of tofu, not slices. The slabs should be the size of the entire block of tofu. Mix the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, coconut aminos, tahini, and spices in a large shallow baking dish or zipper-type plastic bag. Place the slabs of tofu in the marinade and coat all sides well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Place the slabs on parchment or lined baking sheets. Score the tops of each slab of tofu in desired pattern, such as diagonal cuts, cutting about a quarter of an inch and not cutting all the way to the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, turn over and bake for 10 more minutes. During these 10 minutes, brush the tops of the non-scored side with the maple syrup mixture. Turn back over to scored side. Brush scored side with glaze and bake 5 minutes or until you see your desired color. Serve with finely minced herbs on top.

Ginger Molasses Cookies 

  • 1 flax egg
  • 326 grams (or 2 1/3 cup) of whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup molasses

Glaze 

  • 1 cup powdered raw cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Use almond or other plant-based milk to thin the glaze 

To make flax egg, microwave 3 tablespoons of water for about 20 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon ground flax seed and let sit for 10 minutes.

Place the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until well combined.

In a large bowl, mix the almond butter and cane sugar together until it looks creamy and fluffy. Add the flax egg mixture, molasses, and almond milk to almond butter and sugar mixture. Mixing in a little bit in at a time, add the flour mixture and mix just to combine. Don’t over-mix. 

Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This dough is best after chilling for 1-2 hours or up to overnight.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into balls of equal size, 1/2-ounce each. Place on cookie sheet. Press down to thickness of 1/2 an inch. Bake for 12 minutes and start checking for doneness. They will burn quickly, so don’t over-bake. Remove to wire rack to cool. After they’re completely cool, drizzle with glaze.

For more recipes and a schedule of her classes, check out Dunaway’s website, chef-julia.com, and follow her on social media. Be on the lookout for her cookbook, which should be out next year. 

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