Guest post: Vegan Cookie Connoisseur Kelly Peloza goes to Mad City Vegan Fest!  »

The first-ever Mad City Vegan Fest was held last month in Madison, Wis., and I was lucky enough to be there doing a baking demo and speech. Over 1,300 people attended, and there were so many fantastic, inspiring presenters: Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House spoke about food activism; Terry Romero made chipotle seitan potato tacos; Kenny Torella of Mercy For Animals spoke about everyday compassion; and there was a nutrition talk, yoga session, and raw food demo! There were lines wrapping around the exhibitor room full of people eager to get their hands on lunch from local Midwest vegan food vendors like Dandelion Food Cart (I got a breakfast-y tofu ciabatta sandwich and it was yumz), Ste Martaen Vegan Food Truck, and a whole host of tables offering samples. A smashing success, and everyone was extremely friendly and super awesome.

It gets even better! There were Vegansaurus Happy Veggie Kids at the vegan fest! My friend Marla of Chicago VeganMania was there with Justice. Then I recognized Ayame, who sat in the front row at my demo and volunteered to be one of my cookie-decorators. I clearly need to be best friends with more eight-year-olds because Ayame said she loves cookies and bunnies, and OMG me too! I went vegan when I was 14 and grew up very much involved in the vegan community, and it’s wonderful to see these awesome vegan kids being a part of such a wonderful community at such a young age!

For my demo, I talked about cookbook-writing and the greatness of microplane zesters, then made Shirley Temple Cookies. They are a delicate, shortbread-like citrus cookie topped with cherry grenadine frosting, garnished with a cherry, candy straws, and a cocktail umbrella—just like the drink. Get the recipe here.

Sandi and Ayame and I piped frosting and garnished the cookies with all sorts of fun stuff. The audience also got samples of Chocolate Peppermint Cream Bars (such a summery recipe, I know!) and Hypnosis Cookie Lollipops. Jasmin commented that my dress matched the cookies—when you spend all your time making cookies, at some point desserts become your (subconscious) fashion inspiration. The demo went smoothly and everyone was gobbling up cookies by the end of it!

The after-party was held at High Noon Saloon, with pizza and cupcakes galore (the only food groups you’ll ever need)! My friend Jessica of Compassionate Cake baked a huge selection of GORGEOUS cupcakes, in flavors like Chile Chocolate, Death by Chocolate, and Maple Vegan Bacon, topped with intricate fondant and chocolate sculptures. I had met Jessica a few days prior to the event, after seeing her cupcakes and deciding we needed to be friends immediately. She is just starting her catering business and she’s an amazing lady. Just look at these cupcakes!

I always go home happy and inspired from vegan fests and other events, and Mad City was no exception (well, 8 a.m. class the next day was kind of a drag). I met so many wonderful people, saw some good friends, and made new ones. Go get your vegan fest on in a city near you, or get involved with starting one! Something about putting hundreds of like-minded people with great ideas and enthusiasm all in one place all day makes awesome things happen!

Kelly Peloza is the author of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which is great. Find her at The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and Seitan Beats Your Meat online, or all over the place in real life! Thanks for the post, Kelly!


Cookbook review: The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, by Kelly Peloza!  »

Skyhorse Press sent us a copy of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by Kelly Peloza, and we are really, really grateful to them because it is a knockout. Seasonally—and economically!—speaking, with an MSRP under $20, it is also an ideal gift: Confused relatives love you, weirdo vegan nieces/nephews/cousins/grandchildren, but they don’t want to spend more than $20 on your presents, and by the way they have NO IDEA what to get, so send them this link—or send them to Vegansaurus for us to pass it along—and you are guaranteed something awesome. It’s not only hardback, it has a shiny dust cover; can you name five vegan cookbooks with a DUST COVER? No! Skyhorse put a lot of work and money into publishing this treasure trove, and it’s definitely worth it.

Author Kelly Peloza apparently made her name online before putting this cookbook together, but I don’t know anything and hadn’t heard of her prior to getting this in the mail.* Regardless: she’s great. Also she’s from Milwaukee, which we love on principle! Check out my results with some of her recipes!

These are Pixies (pp. 87)! You roll them in powdered sugar before baking.

This is a section of caramel apple bar (pp. 146) that I made in a pie pan, for reasons I cannot now remember. The apple is really nice and tart inside all that caramel.

Hello, chocolate peppermint cream bars (pp. 156)! These took kind of forever to make because of the waiting, but they are pretty delicious. I am afraid the pepperminty frosting part is a little toothpastey, but I am also what you might call neurotic.

She even has a recipe for puppy cookies, specifically peanut butter dog treats (pp. 202). They’ve only got four ingredients and the dogs here love them. Of course they are “anything with peanut butter” so that’s sort of a gimme. Oliver is such a good boy, look at him let me take the picture!

The chewy pumpkin spice cookies (pp. 133) that did not get photographed were also quite good.

Some criticisms: The chewy caramel pecans (pp. 67) are ridiculous—if you make them, just omit that ¼ cup of oil from the batter, it’s extraneous and gross. The carrot cake cookies (pp. 248) aren’t nearly carrotty enough, but the texture and spice blend are nice. Overall the recipes are sugar-heavy, and while I bake an excellent cookie, I don’t have super-skills, and cutting sugar in baked goods is tricky business, what with good texture being much more difficult to adjust for than sweetness. I’ll work on it and let you know.

Cookies are whimsical and so classically (U.S.) American. If you love them, you’ll want this book; it’s well written, full of lush photos, and really fun. With The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur Kelly Peloza has made a valuable contribution to vegan cookbooks, and to our cultural heritage, I think, as we evolve beyond eating animals. Vegan cookies are the best! Now go get this cookbook—or get someone to give it to you—and find out for yourself.**

*This is her excuse for not having Vegansaurus on her blogroll? Because I can’t think of another reason.
**Bake a few batches of your favorite whatever for this weekend’s SF Vegan Bakesale!

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