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I have an announcement. Are you sitting down?

The sun has been shining in Portland for 10 straight days.

It’s been amazing.

I was lolling on the grass one sunny day in college, Back East, and my friend Natalie, who grew up here in Portland, turned to me and said, “I’m from Oregon. We don’t really trust the sun.”

“Well, I sure as shit ain’t moving there,” I said to myself.

But 8 years later, here I am, and after my first northwest winter, I’ve joined the club. I get out of the house the moment the clouds thin, because I know that blue skies won’t be the case for long. When the sun can’t decide whether or not to come out during the day, however, and we get clouds-sun-clouds-sun, I think, “Oh, just let it be cloudy and let’s be done with it.”

Last weekend, though, I dug out spaghetti straps, linen dresses, and tube tops from the back of my closet. After a week and a half of this weather, I think it’s going to hang around for a little while. My pasty winter skin has gone away and I feel like a normal human being again! It’s been picnics aplenty here in Stumptown and today was no exception. Sesame cookies and seitan bánh mì with a rockstar dipping sauce from Veganomicon were in hand as Ravi and I walked to the park; we munched away on our tasty sandwiches and sugar while feeling summer coming on stronger by the minute. Let’s just hope the sun sticks around for awhile.

The bánh mì didn’t last long enough to get a decent picture, so I’ll focus on the cookies. The hardest part of vegan baked goods is getting the texture right for those of us who grew up on egg-leavened treats. These cookies nail it. And they do it without flaxseed, a hippie-food favorite that my body just doesn’t tolerate. Brown rice syrup, peanut butter, and equal amounts of baking powder and baking soda pull together the right mouthfeel; the spices and wandering hint of almond extract makes a wonderful balance. Plus, pretty!

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Peanut-Ginger-Sesame Cookies
from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
makes 42 cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening, softened
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus additional sugar for rolling
1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
5 ounces candied ginger, diced finely
1/3 cup each white and black sesame seeds, or 2/3 cup of just one kind

Preheat to 350F and lightly grease two cookie sheets.

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground ginger, and cinnamon, and set aside.

In a large bowl use electric beaters to cream the shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter, rice syrup, sugar, soy milk, and extracts, and continue to beat until creamy, 4-5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture, then add chopped candied ginger and stir until a very firm dough forms. You can use your hands towards the end to mix the dough.

Roll scant tablespoons of the dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll each ball in sesame seeds, then roll in a little sugar and place on a prepared cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2″ of space between each cookie. Flatten the balls just slightly and bake for 10-11 minutes for chewy cookies, up to 14 minutes for firmer, crunchier cookies. Remove from oven and allow cookies to remain on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.

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