This week, we’ll be celebrating the New Year, the beginning of 2019. In a matter of days, social media and television will be bombarded with the ever-present but annually charged horde of diets, money saving, and makeovers. With the start of January 1st comes the start of the empty promises; we euphemistically refer to them as resolutions. I understand that there are plenty of individuals who have faithfully followed through with their ambitions for the year, and I have great respect for them. But it’s unfortunately more common to witness the quick crumble of New Year’s Resolutions than to see them come to fruition.
I believe the reason for this is that we are so heavily pressured to make claims too monumental to give ourselves a fair chance. With the level of grandeur that accompanies the building up to and celebrating of New Year’s Eve, it’s difficult to avoid making equally grand promises for the occasion. Blaring messages to “Become a new person!” or “Make 2019 your year!” or “Turn your life around!” leave us feeling that what we resolve to do should be world-altering. As soon as the glitter and live performances and bubbling champagne and celebration fades away, though, our enthused promises suddenly become nothing more than good intentions. And when we realize this is the case, we naturally face the post-resolution weight of failure. Especially when we’re perpetually surrounded by the misleading perfection of those on social media; it’s no surprise that among the dozens of photos of six packs and tiny smoothie bowls no one posts about, oh I don’t know, REAL life.
I’ve certainly fallen victim to the attractive lure of the New Year. Without fail, I silently declared every year in high school that I would totally reinvent my look, come in every day with a perfectly engineered outfit and makeup. I lasted two weeks tops before I was back to jeans, t-shirts and dripping hair. I’ve watched videos of incredible ballet dancers and felt so instantly certain that I’d look like them in a matter of days; the next class I took I’d have the disappointing realization that I hadn’t awoken with 180° extensions and the ability to do 7 pirouettes on command. After experiencing personally the woes of overly-ambitious resolutions, I’ve decided the best option is to forego entirely this inevitable cycle of high-hopes and disappointment. To me, the best New Year’s Resolutions–and those most likely to actually be completed–are those that instead of centering on a singular, far-fetched result, are focused on day-to-day life. Start a conversation daily with someone you normally wouldn’t approach. Make just one healthy substitution in your eating each day. Call family on the weekends. Do a few things each week to be more intentional and appreciative in a friendship. I’ve come to understand that these ambitions, as meager as they sound, yield just as monumental results as the aesthetically- aimed most “popular” resolutions.
Those fad resolutions probably don’t allow for sugar cookies, so you want to stay clear of them anyway. These cookies are wonderfully sweet and buttery, with that oh so slight crisp on the outside. Yeah, try not to drool. And whether you’re vegan or not, I highly recommend this method of making royal icing: no raw egg whites, no expensive meringue powder. What’s more, decorating royal iced sugar cookies makes the perfect activity for friends or family; my sister and I laughed and decorated and lost track of time until we emerged hours later, stained with food coloring and thoroughly satisfied. And with royal icing, you can turn any simple shape into a polished, bakery-worthy dessert. Sometimes, I plan a larger-than-life bake in my mind. And a lot of times, it doesn’t end up happening. This year, let’s go small with our promises: there’s nothing wrong with a good sugar cookie resolution.
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing (V)
- 1/2 cup vegan butter/butter spread (earth balance is great)
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup vegan sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 flax eggs (2 TBSP ground flax mixed with 6 TBSP water, left to thicken in fridge for at least five minutes)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp almond milk
- aquafaba (drained liquid from one can of chickpeas)
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 5 cups of powdered sugar (vegan if desired)
- 3/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- Combine vegan butter, vegetable shortening, and sugar in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth. Add flax egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and almond milk. Mix until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, mixing after each addition.
- Cover dough and chill overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lightly flour a counter top. Dust the cookie dough with flour to avoid sticking, and roll it out to just smaller than 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters, or use rim of a glass to make circular cookies.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until bottom edges of cookies just start to change color.
- Allow to completely cool before icing.
- Combine aquafaba and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.
- Whisk on high until mixture is very frothy.
- Begin to add powdered sugar gradually, until all is incorporated. Mix in extracts.
- Mix on high until completely smooth and thick.
- Color with food coloring if desired.
- Ice sugar cookies with piping bags, and allow icing to set.