Chocolate Yule Log and Gingerbread Cookies (V)

IMG_9204 (1)My family spent the whole week with me for Christmas this year. It’s not uncommon for them to visit during this season–with Nutcracker shows going on after Christmas Day, dancers aren’t usually free to go home until almost January, so it’s become a tradition for the Durands to celebrate the holiday here in Pittsburgh. And while it never fails to be a wonderful visit, something about this one was particularly special.

Perhaps part of the singularity of this trip had to do with the fact that both my parents and sister were all able to actually stay with me in my apartment (with my tiny living situations in the past, we’d become quite accustomed to hotel-room Christmas). It also certainly could have been because it’s only the second year that my parents have lived as empty-nesters. Whatever the many factors, I believe that there was a larger, overriding reason, though–a rather melancholy “first” for our family that made this week as valuable as it was. This was our first family visit when we had no idea when the next time we’d all be together again would be.

I didn’t actually make the connection until last Saturday, when we were shuffling around the living room saying our goodbyes. You see, there’s a solid form of comfort in a goodbye that comes with “I’ll see you in a few months!” or “Can’t wait until summer!” Even the longest periods of separation are made manageable when a clear end is established, when a period exists to eventually halt the dreadful run-on sentence. But parting ways with the most important people in your life and having nothing to say but a nebulous “Bye…” is a terrible feeling, one that I would prefer to never experience.  IMG_9182

That being said, I do believe that this realization was present with us, even subconsciously, throughout our time here. Each moment we shared, even those as simple as cooking together or eating Chinese food after church or unloading the car, had a sense of importance simply because of the fact that we were doing it together. Even my physical therapy appointments were enjoyable purely because my mom and sister sat right next to me for the entire two hours. I can say whole-heartedly that we didn’t waste a moment of the time we were gifted; and, as corny as it sounds, it truly was the best Christmas gift I received.

I hope that you all were able to share this Christmas and New Year’s Eve with those who love you, who bring you hope and happiness. My heart goes out to all of those who are suffering or alone right now–I pray that this year would bring you joy and memories that will outlive any present hurt.

Finally, me being me, the first thing I managed to do in my emotional, angsty state after my family left was to write an emotional, angsty poem. Here’s the rough draft if you’re interested; if not, scroll down for two delish Christmas recipes!

“… How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

Psalm 133:1




Matt from the bus 

told me that he didn’t understand 

why people feel the need to be close

to their families

“There are so many people in the world”

He said

“So I really just don’t need those five in my life.”

I looked in his eyes and knew

There was no resentment 

or hatred

in the words when he said them

But four days later they came rushing back to me

Like when you stand up too quickly

and the sudden newness of supporting itself

jolts your body 

And as I watched my family walk away from me–

tingling imprints of their hugs still fresh

across my sinking chest–

The fact that there are billions 

of people in the world 

was exactly the opposite of comforting

It meant that

In addition to tears blurring my vision 

and the front window screen

and soon to be hundreds of miles–

There were 7 billion people

Creating space




All I could think about

as I stood behind the door–

the frigid air quickly expelling their

leftover heat that blanketed my body– 

Was that there were

So.      many.      people.

So many people in the world 

Who were not those three


Chocolate Yule Log (V)



  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa  powder
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1 oz. vegan chocolate, melted
  • 3 flax eggs (3 TBSP ground flax mixed with 9 TBSP of water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder



  1. Place butter in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin gradually adding powdered sugar and almond milk, alternating and mixing on low-medium speed between each addition.
  2. Add cocoa powder and salt, and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  3. Add any additional powdered sugar or almond milk as desired to needed ideal consistency.
  4. Cover and keep at room temperature while you finish the cake.


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 10″x 12″ jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides); line the bottom with wax paper; grease and flour the top of the wax paper and sides of sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together melted chocolate, flax eggs, sugar, vinegar, and almond milk with a spoon or spatula.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder, and salt.
  4. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Spoon batter onto cookie sheet, and spread into an even layer with a spatula.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for about 13 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean, and top of cake springs back slightly when pressed.
  7. Remove from oven, and dust top of cake liberally with powdered sugar. Place a tea towel over cake. Holding the pan and towel together, flip it upside down so the cake will turn out onto the towel (the wax paper side will be on top, but leave the paper on).
  8.  Starting from one of the short ends, roll the cake and the towel together into a spiral. Place in fridge to cool for about an hour.
  9. Remove from fridge. Gently unroll cake and remove wax paper. Spread all of frosting evenly over the cake, covering any cracks that have developed.
  10. Roll the cake up again, this time without the towel. Wrap tightly in cling film.
  11. Place back in fridge and allow to chill at least another hour before slicing.
  12. Top as desired: crushed candy canes, melted chocolate, nuts, whipped cream, etc. (I love to do chocolate ganache and flaky sea salt!). Enjoy!
  13. If you have any leftover and have to freeze/refrigerate it, allow to come to room temperature again before serving.

Gingerbread Cookies (V)


  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 flax eggs (2 TBSP ground flax mixed with 6 TBSP water, left to thicken in the fridge for at least 5 minutes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • (optional) zest of 1 small orange


  1. In a large bowl, combine butter, shortening, flax eggs, brown sugar, and molasses. Mix well by hand or with a mixer.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and orange zest.
  3. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. When it starts to form a dough, I find it easiest to use my hands to finish the mixing and form a ball with the dough.
  4. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out the cookie dough on a lightly floured surface (doing it in sections is easiest). Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters or the rims of glasses.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven until bottoms/edges of cookies just barely begin to darken, about 9-11 minutes in my oven. Remove, and allow to cool on cooling rack completely before icing/serving.
  8. Top as desired: frosting, sprinkles, melted chocolate, royal icing (see my vegan royal icing recipe on the sugar cookie recipe
  9. Store at room temperature in sealed containers.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s