A couple weeks ago I celebrated my three year "veggiversary" and made these cupcakes to celebrate. I had been teetering on the edge of vegetarianism for years before taking the plunge. My junior year of college I studied abroad in Italy and convinced myself I could subsist on pasta alone, attempting to limit the amount of meat I consumed. I continued when I got home that summer in New York but constantly felt weak and shaky. I had no idea what I was doing, and ate a diet of almost exclusively some version of cheese and white carbs, and quickly went back to eating meat regularly.
Fast forward a couple years and I had moved to Los Angeles, possibly the world's mecca of health food with incredible accessibility to nearly any fresh fruit or vegetable you could imagine, and things had slowly begun to shift. I'd learned how to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as mains while letting meat serve more as accents to the meals we ate at home. My OCD-tendencies hated all the hand-washing and careful counter and cutting board wiping that came with cooking raw meat, so before we knew it, meat became something we only enjoyed on weekend date nights.
Then on May 21st, 2013 I casually decided to watch the movie Vegucated while eating lunch at home between teaching yoga classes. I'm not going to lie, seeing the conditions of animals on factory farms made me sick to my stomach, so sick I figured I'd give this whole vegetarian thing another try. I thought to myself if I can make a real impact on the lives of animals with minimal effort on my part, why wouldn't I? I craved meat a bit in the first few weeks, I ate a lot of pasta with vegetables, and peanut butter sandwiches. I remember being so excited when I calculated how much protein I actually needed based on my weight and exercise level (it's less than you think). I soon learned how to incorporate beans and protein-rich whole grains like quinoa into nearly every dinner at home, and am proud to say I now resort to pasta only a couple times a month! But overall, it's become seamless, it's not something I think about except when I'm out at a restaurant. And it's forced me to become exponentially more creative in the kitchen, develop a greater appreciation for foods of different cultures, and a fierce love for homemade black beans.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every dollar we spend is a vote we cast in a world we choose to support. Money speaks volumes, especially in an economy and political atmosphere like ours. So of course I get the appeal of eating meat, I ate it for nearly 24 years, but I think by making small changes in our meat consumption like reducing it to just a couple days a week or seeking out meat from animals who didn't spend their whole lives suffering on factory farms, or maybe taking the plunge and giving it up altogether we can really make a difference in the lives of animals.
Also these cupcakes! They're vegan and they are unbelievable, fresh, summery and the perfect way to celebrate my three year anniversary with all foods plant-based. Enjoy.
Makes 12 cupcakes
Adapted from: Food52
For the frosting:
1 can coconut cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar
For the cupcakes:
1 cup + 1 tablespoon almond milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, packed (from ~ 3 lemons)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender buds, + more for garnish
1/2 cup coconut oil, in solid form
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Prepare the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) whisk together the coconut cream, vanilla, lemon juice and zest until smooth. With the mixer on low gradually sprinkle in the sugar and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Taste and adjust adding more sugar or lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate while you make the cupcakes. (Note: the frosting can be made up to 2 days in advanced).
Make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners, then lightly spray the cupcake liners with oil (I use trader joe's coconut oil spray).
Combine almond milk and lemon juice then set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside. In a small prep bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until moist and fragrant.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) cream together the solid coconut oil, vanilla extract, and the sugar mixture until smooth and creamy. Add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by a third of the milk mixture, repeat allowing the batter to incorporate between additions until all of the milk and flour mixtures are incorporated into a smooth batter.
Divide the batter equally in the cupcake pan and cook for 20-24 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Top the cupcakes with frosting and sprinkle with lavender. Cupcakes store best in the refrigerator and keep for 3-4 days.