Friday, June 15, 2018

Birthday Weekend with lots of Celebrating!

ha ha. it's not actually super-glamorous to turn 45

This past weekend was my birthday (woot! 45!) and I had a pretty great weekend from start to finish. Usually we have a little family dinner or gathering to recognize each other's bdays, but this year my bday was (happily) eclipsed by my nephew's high school graduation (more on that below!). Obviously a high school graduation is a more festive and important life event than a 45th birthday. Nonetheless, I was feeling festive, and I was especially in the mood to have some friends over and have a friends party... so I decided to throw myself a bday party! 

My day started off great with a trip to the farmers market, a great workout, and a nice long yoga practice at home. Then I started getting ready for my party, and one of my best besties (ever since high school!) came over to spend some time together and help me get ready. It was so fun to see her and to have company as I puttered in the kitchen and back yard.



Because she knows me *so well*, she brought me some amazing bday gifties (all edible, of course!) - fresh mulberries from her farmers market, a gorgeous basket of strawberries, and two baggies of "energy bites" from a fancy retreat center that she went to recently... so many delicious treats!


MULBERRIES

I just love mulberries so much. They are funny looking (like giant caterpillar berries) and so sweet and delicious. A long time ago, my pal and I were talking about mulberries and how there is a vendor at her farmers market who sells them. I have never seen them at the markets I go to, and I was so touched and stoked that she remembered my love of mulberries!! There are only a couple left and I am going to savor them. 




   
Birthday Lasagna!

For my birthday, I really wanted to have a vegan potluck... even though only two of the people I invited are vegan, everyone else very lovingly played along (thanks, pals!). I declared it to be a Mediterranean-themed vegan potluck and told everyone I would make a vegan lasagna, some cookies and buy ice cream.

At first I was going to make minestrone soup, which I also love, but then I soon realized that I had to make lasagna instead because lasagna is the #1 food of all time and I love it so much. I actually made TWO lasagnas - one for the party and another one to eat all week. Because the idea of going to all the work of making lasagna and not having leftovers was just too tragic. I used my very own "Amey's Birthday Lasagna" recipe - a recipe I am very proud of! 


glorious array of goodness! 

My pal L brought this awesome mix of spreads and veggies and breads. SO RAD. Regular hummus, beet hummus, a very cool pomegranate and olive tapenade, olives, veggies, pita chips. So much good stuff! 



I wish you could see just how huge this platter really is - my friend J brought this huge and glorious salad platter with one of my most beloved spring ingredients: fava beans!!!! Oh man it was really good: spinach, crunch from sugar snap peas and celery, shredded beets, ** favas ** and a creamy avocado. Plus some nice dressing she brought too. So good.


This picture looks silly but this salad was really good and special! J brought a really nice salad with greens (underneath all that good stuff) and then when we were ready to eat, she poured on a big mix of veggies that had been marinating in dressing: cukes, tomatoes, corn, and cranberries! It was really good! I like the idea of marinating the veggies in the dressing for maximum flavor delivery. 


Yaaaasssssssss. Dolmas for President! M and M brought a glorious array of dolmas that were so extremely good. Who even thought of dolmas and figured out that they could be so delicious and perfect??


Another non-stellar photo - but this was a really nice salad. K brought an orzo and lentil salad with "a bunch of other good stuff" ha ha. Artichoke hearts, sliced almonds, bell peppers... it was a nice hearty salad to go with all the other lighter salads.


Birthday party dinner plate - first pass!

It turns out that a Mediterranean theme vegan potluck is a good way to go! It's a pretty loose theme, and people will bring delicious and overall pretty healthy food, which feels good. Even after eating this huge plate of food, I didn't feel like I had eaten way too much. It was perfect! 


We had lots of different drinks on hand - fancy juices, fizzy water, beer and wine, and we even made Aperol Spritzes! I almost never drink alcohol, but I'll make an occasional exception for an Aperol spritz. They are so beautiful and not too boozy and transport me back to my wonderful trip to Italy with Mr VE&T a few years ago. 


Cherries are probably my very favorite fruit of all time and I promised my party pals that I would have a big bowl of cherries on hand. I love that cherries are in season for my birthday, I think it makes me feel a special kinship with them. I have been eating so many cherries, you guys. SO MANY.

cherries are the best, forever and ever, AMEN.


In addition to the big beautiful platter of salad, J also brought a big bowl of organic strawberries, straight from her farm. SO good. I feel so lucky to live in the land of strawberries. 


We had a really fun evening, eating dinner outside (with blankets and pillows to keep cozy). It was so fun. See our new solar-powered party lights? I love them! 

Vegan Cheesecake

My daring and wonderful pal A brought a homemade vegan cheese cake with some nice raspberry sauce! It's so beautiful. Then she took one bite of her own creation and declared "oh no, this cheesecake is terrible!" Ha ha. I didn't think it was terrible, but it was better to think of it as something other than a cheesecake!! 


Cooooooooooookies

I decided to make cookies for my party and figured that in the end, there is no better cookie than the classic chocolate chip cookie. None of our guests were gluten-free, so I went for a straight up gluten fest! These are the Soft Set Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Aquafaba Cookbook, my favorite chocolate chip cookie ever. I made a double batch, because I made them the day before the party and I still wasn't sure how many people were going to come. Now I have a big bag of cookies in the freezer, which is kinda like a birthday present to myself. 


When I told my trustworthy pal J that I was going to make cookies and buy ice cream, she wisely suggested that we make ice cream sandwiches. DUH. So I went all out and bought a ton of vegan ice cream. I didn't know what kind people would want, or if someone might prefer coconut base or almond base etc etc. OH SHOOT, I had to buy four kinds of ice cream. Ha ha ha. Now we have so much ice cream in the freezer to eat. Another bday gift to myself. I bought Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate, So Delicious Cold Brew (my new favorite!), So Delicious Salted Caramel Cluster, and Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Heaven on Earth! 


Dessert Plate! 

My cheesecake slice with raspberry sauce, and my ice cream sandwich (half cold brew, half cherry garcia). I don't know if you can see, but I also put out a bowl of mini chocolate chips so that we could roll the outside edges of our ice cream sammies in mini chips. yes! These cookies are perfect for ice cream sandwiches because they are so soft, so you can bit through them and they don't crack or crumble. I highly suggest ice cream sandwiches as a summer activity. 


In case you were wondering. Snoopy is still adorable.
He's had most of his bottom front teeth removed, and now his little tongue often slips out into a sweet little DERP. I love it. 


Graduation!!!
Like I mentioned before, this year I shared my bday weekend with my wonderful youngest nephew, who graduated from high school on Friday. We all went to his high school graduation and it was a really powerful and moving day. All the seniors had to present their senior projects and they each gave a speech. It was so emotional and wonderful. I think you can see how excited we both were.


Of course on graduation night, my nephew went off to have fun with his pals and it sounds like they had a fun night. But we were determined to have a big family party for him -- to celebrate his accomplishments and our love for him. I made a big huge chocolate cake! (I used a triple batch of batter from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). I also made one little cupcake, which I inverted and used as a graduation cap. The mortar board is a graham cracker with black frosting on it! I even bought yellow fondant to make a little edible tassle, and used parchment paper for the mini diploma. I went to the party store for the fondant, and to get that nice silvery cake board, and ended up also spending $6 on a tiny little container of edible gold star glitters. I mean, how could I possibly have resisted??

I've never learned how to use all the fancy frosting tips, but I really wanted this cake to look fancy, so I did my best! I was really happy with how it turned out, and - more importantly - it was also super delicious and well appreciated by all!

What a wonderful weekend of festivities and fun and family. Phew! This weekend, I have a much more lowkey agenda. There will be sitting around, no baking, no parties... just some pet snuggles, yoga practice, and cherry eating.

Also! Thanks to everyone for entering my giveaway for a copy of the wonderful new book "Wicked Healthy." I used the random number generator... and Josiane Richer is the winner! 
Congratulations, Josiane! 
Send me your mailing address and the book will be on its way to you. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Monday, June 04, 2018

Wicked Healthy - Cookbook Review & Giveaway!


Here's a super fun and exciting new vegan cookbook to tell you about! I am so stoked to be a part of the Wicked Healthy blog tour. This book is so beautiful and interesting! 

For years it seemed like every vegan cookbook that was published was aimed at people who had never heard of avocado toast or overnight oatmeal. I like those things as much as the next vegan, but I don't personally need a recipe for them. Also, I'm super, super stoked that there are so many wonderful cookbooks to support people who are starting their vegan journeys. That said, it is so exciting and thrilling when I get my hands on a cookbook that is NOT aimed at beginners.

roasted garlic, oh how I love thee

Wicked Healthy is such an exciting book - it's aimed at a competent home chef who loves cooking and loves innovative and adventurous flavors. The book is absolutely beautiful and is really fun and inspiring just to read. Wicked Healthy is written by two brothers, Chad and Derek Sarno, and there is a distinctly masculine tone to the writing - like two brothers playing and sparring in the kitchen. It's not off-putting though, and it's nice to see this voice in a vegan cookbook, since that genre is largely dominated by female authors. Both brothers are also trained chefs, and that is another cool thing about this book - I didn't just make great recipes from it, I also learned some fun and useful new-to-me kitchen techniques from their recipes. I really love that!! It's so exciting when a good book also teaches you how to improve your own skills in the kitchen. 


super, super thin bread slices - a trick I learned from Wicked Healthy:
freeze the bread first and then slice it into the thinnest slices ever! GENIUS.
(this recipe is at the end of this post!)

As soon as this book arrived, I started flipping through it, staring at all the amazing pictures, and writing up a (long) list of all the recipes I wanted to try. Happily, the next week was the birthday of one of my very best besties and I had invited her and her family over for dinner. I decided to make five different recipes from Wicked Healthy to celebrate! 

When you love someone that much, you can make an entire 5-course meal out of recipes you've never tried before, because you know they will forgive you if the whole thing is a bust. Luckily, not a single thing I made was a bust. Far from it - we all loved our meal, and we had such a super fun evening together. 

1st course:
Cucumber, Celery, Green Apple, and Kale Juice!
(from Juices and Cocktails / Juices and Coolers chapter)

Lately I've been kinda into green juice! I don't have a juicer though, so I pureed everything in my Vitamix and then strained it through several layers of cheesecloth. This recipes makes two big glasses of green juice, but I made 5 little appetizer / palate cleanser glasses - one for each of us. It was very yum - perfect hint of sweet from the apple, and a good balance of flavors! 


2nd Course:
Roasted Beet Salad with Citrus and Tarragon Cashew Cream 

I have the recipe for this beautiful and delicious salad at the end of this post! Check it out! 

Wow, dudes. Check this biz out. I was very proud of myself. I got this plating idea straight from the photos in the book - because as you have probably noticed, I am not generally a plating wiz. I am more like an eating wiz. It was so fun to make something so gorgeous and have it all plated and ready when my friends arrived. I really wanted her to feel special! 

This dish was so fun to prepare - there were many components, but none of it was difficult. The beets are roasted, the citrus is supremed, the little toasties are toasted, the tarragon cashew cream is pureed, the greens are tossed in dressing... It was such a pleasure to just take my time and enjoy all the different processes, and especially to have it all come together in such a beautiful and delicious result. 

feeling pleased with the outcome! 

3rd Course:
Minted Pea Ricotta and Zucchini Toasts

Oh man, I think these beautiful little toasts might have been my favorite recipe of the evening. These were so delicious - delicate and bursting with perfectly balanced springtime flavors. These toasts would be appealing for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The toasts have a lovely ricotta mixture, topped with lightly seared zucchini ribbons, and a sprinkle of microgreens. I used my panino press to just lightly grill the zucchini ribbons. Lightly cooking the zucchini ribbons made them softer for a more delicate curl, prettier, and more tasty too. Win-win-win! 

The Minted Pea Ricotta mixture is absolutely stunning - a hint of lemon zest, shallot, and fresh peas (or frozen if it's not peak pea season!). One suggestion in the book is to use that ricotta mixture in homemade ravioli, which would definitely be 100% amazing and I would like to try that! 

The recipe calls for Kite Hill Ricotta as a base for the Minted Pea Ricotta. To that point, this book does call for a few brand name items in some of the recipes (Kite Hill ricotta, Ninja Squirrel Sriracha, Beyond Meat burgers). That's not always my favorite thing in a cookbook, but I don't mind it in this case. If you don't have access to those brands, you could easily adapt. And the recipes themselves really add a lot, so it's never just a recipe for a store-bought burger with ketchup on it or whatever. 

You can find this recipe over here at Adventures In Cooking's blog post about Wicked Healthy
SO GOOD


4th Course:
Roasted Cauliflower Fagioli
(from Soups and Stews chapter)

I love a good veggie stew, and I loved the idea of repurposing Pasta Fagioli with a whole head of roasted cauliflower instead of all the pasta... to make it more veggie-dense. Three cheers for veggies! That said, I did also use the optional suggestion to add some little noodles - I used some of my tiny little noodles that are so small they are practically Israeli couscous. 

We all loved this summery stew, and there was even some left over for me to enjoy the next day. The recipe intro says that this stew will be even better the next day, and - uh - that was true! Next time I will just make it a day ahead of when I intend to eat it! Ha ha. 

This cookbook definitely has recipes-within-recipes: for example, in order to make this, I made the Nana Sarno's Red Sauce. Not paying attention, I ended up making about 8 cups of red sauce, when the Fagioli recipe only called for two cups. I used some later for another recipe from the book and froze some to enjoy later as well. 



5th Course:
Drunken Berries with Amaretto Gelato and Ninja Nuts

YESSSSSSSS. Hot DAMN this dessert was seriously something special. I won't lie... it was also a lot of work. But I was in the mood for a culinary adventure and I enjoyed every moment of the process. All the recipes in this book came together as described in the write ups, no surprises and no instances where something took twice as long to cook or burned in half the time. You know what I'm talking about. Because the recipes were so well-written, that made it easier and not stressful to embark on a big project like this. 

This was a real recipe-inside-a-recipe adventure:
Make the Mango Sriracha Caramel, to make the Ninja Nuts.
Make the ice cream base, chill, churn the ice cream
Cut and macerate the berries.
Assemble.
EAT!!!

Almost all the desserts in this book (there aren't too many) are fancy, complicated special-occasion deserts like this. Obviously, you could just make individual components - but based on our experience of this glorious gastronomic delight, I would suggest going the whole nine yards. This was seriously such a special and delicious combo of flavors and textures. Each component - the berries, the gelato, and the nuts - were excellent on their own, and just glorious in combination with each other! I'm quite sure that this was the best homemade ice cream I've ever made. Excellent flavor and texture. 


Mango Sriracha Caramel
This caramel sauce is called for in making the so called "Ninja Nuts" that were part of the dessert. It is so delicious! I made a half-batch, and was still left with a whole lot left over (the nuts recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons). Luckily, it is delicious, and it lasts a little while in the fridge. I couldn't find 100% mango juice, so I used mango-apricot juice, which worked wonderfully. The finished product is carmelly, mango-y, apricot-y, with a nice spicy kick at the end. So good!


Ninja Nuts!
These "ninja nuts" (so called because the recipe suggests using Ninja Squirrel Sriracha) are toasted almonds coated with the Mango-Sriracha caramel. I made these tasty little power nuggets to go with our dessert, but then Mr. VE&T completely fell in love with them and declared them to be the "all time flavor of flavors." So I have made several more batches since then! Once you've made the caramel, these are quick and easy to make. But be warned, they are really hard to stop eating! 


Beautiful berries macerating in a Chambord base
The "Drunken Berries" component of the dessert was just lovely - fresh berries macerated in a mix based on Chambord liquer. What a great idea. And it was so nice to pour a little extra of the liquid over the gelato. Such a great combo with the somewhat-subtle Amaretto Gelato. 



Since that dinner party, I've also made the Whole Roasted Zucchini with Red Sauce 
and the Sriracha Kung Pao Brussels and Tofu (but I made it with broccoli) - which was an instant favorite! There are still so many more recipes that I have my eye on to try:
Bibimbap
Grilled Cabbage with Mint and Peanut Butter Sauce
Kale and Avocado Salad with Wild Rice and Grapes
Spring Agnolotti
Black Garlic and Chive Panisse
Corn Dumplings in Corn Broth
Reuben on Dark Rye
Chocoholic Fudge Brownies with Sea Salt and Dried Strawberries 
... and so many more! 

---------------------------------------------------------------

*GIVEAWAY!!*
I am so stoked that the publishers have offered for me to do a giveaway! To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post and tell me about your favorite fancy recipe to tackle at home, or what you'd like to try from this book, or really anything nice and relatively on-topic! Also, make sure to include your email address or a way to reach you, or I will just pick a different winner. Good luck! 

Also, check out their Wicked Healthy Facebook page - they have links to other reviews and giveaways as well as some great videos with more recipes to try out. 

---------------------------------------------

Roasted Beet Salad with Citrus and Tarragon Cashew Cream
Serves 6-8  

This  was  the  most  popular  salad  at  my  SAF  Restaurant  in  London.  Over  the  years  since  then,  I’ve  served  it  at  many  supper  clubs  and  dinners.  It’s  always  a  hit.  Slow  roasting  the  baby  beets  gives  them  a  deep  sweetness  that  balances  the  earthiness.  Watercress  brings  sharpness  and  bite.  Cashew  cream  contributes  richness.  Sherry  vinegar  has  the  spark.  Bread  crisps  give  it  crunch.  Between  the  textures  and  flavors—and  even  the  colors—this  sexy  dish  just  hits  all  the  buttons.  —Chad  

INGREDIENTS  

ROASTED  BEETS  
12  small  beets  (3  pounds),  rinsed,  stems  trimmed  
1½  tablespoons  everyday  olive  oil  
3  sprigs  fresh  lemon  thyme  or  regular  thyme  
Sea  salt  and  freshly  ground  black  pepper  
4  slices  fresh  lemon  
2  tablespoons  sherry  vinegar  
1½  tablespoons  chopped  fresh  chives 

BREAD  CRISPS  
1  small  baguette  (about  6  inches),  frozen  
1  tablespoon  everyday  olive  oil,  for  pan-frying  
1  teaspoon  granulated  garlic  
½  teaspoon  sea  salt  

ASSEMBLY  
About  1  cup  Tarragon  Cashew  Cream  (see  below)  
2  grapefruits  or  oranges,  segmented  
1  cup  small  watercress  leaves  or  microgreens  
½  tablespoon  best-quality  extra-virgin  olive  oil  
Squeeze  of  lemon  
Flake  salt,  such  as  Maldon  
Cracked  black  pepper  

TARRAGON  CASHEW  CREAM  
Makes  About  1¾  Cups  

INGREDIENTS  
1½  cups  raw  cashews  
About  1/3  cup  water  
Juice  of  ½  lemon  
2  tablespoons  nutritional  yeast  
1½  tablespoons  minced  fresh  tarragon  

METHOD  
1.  FOR  THE  BEETS:  Preheat  the  oven  to  250ºF.  Cut  a  giant  sheet  of  foil  twice  the  length  of  a  baking  sheet  and  place  half  of  it  on  the  pan.  

2.  In  a  bowl,  toss  the  whole  beets  with  the  oil  and  thyme  sprigs  and  season  with  salt  and  pepper.  Pour  the  beets  onto  the  foil  and  scatter  on  the  lemon  slices.  Leave  space  between  the  beets  so  they  can  steam.  Fold  over  the  other  half  of  the  foil  and  crimp  all  the  edges,  sealing  the  package  tightly.  Place  the  pan  in  the  oven  and  slow  roast  until  the  beets  are  tender  enough  for  a  fork  toslide  in  and  out  easily,  50  to  60  minutes,  depending  on  the  size  of  the  beets.  Open  the  package  and  let  cool.  

3.  When  cool,  put  on  some  gloves  to  prevent  staining  yourself  and  peel  away  the  beet  skins  with  a  paring  knife  (not  under  running  water).  Then  slice  the  beets  into  small  wedges.  At  this  point  the  beets  can  be  chilled  in  the  fridge  for  a  day  or  two  before  serving.  

4.  Just  before  serving,  toss  the  beet  wedges  in  a  bowl  with  the  vinegar  and  chives.  Taste  a  wedge,  then  season  with  more  salt  and  pepper  until  it  tastes  good  to  you.  

5.  FOR  THE  BREAD  CRISPS:  
Defrost  the  bread  slightly.  

6.  Heat  the  oil  in  a  frying  pan  over  medium-high  heat.  

7.  While  the  bread  is  semi-frozen,  cut  into  paper-thin  slices  on  a  mandoline.  Place  each  slice  one-by-one  into  the  hot  pan  and  cook  until  lightly  browned  and  crisp,  turning  for  even  cooking,  about  a  minute  per  side.  Place  on  paper  towels  and  immediately  season  with  granulated  garlic  and  salt.  They  will  crisp  up  as  they  sit.  

8.  TO  ASSEMBLE  EACH  PLATE:  
Spread  1  to  2  tablespoons  cashew  cream  in  a  line  on  the  bottom  of  the  plate.  Arrange  the  beets,  citrus  segments,  and  bread  crisps  over  the  cashew  cream,  alternating  the  pieces.  

9.  Toss  the  watercress  with  the  olive  oil  and  lemon  juice  in  a  small  bowl.  Arrange  the  dressed  watercress  over  the  top  of  the  salad.  Finish  with  a  pinch  of  flake  salt  and  cracked  black  pepper.  

PRO  TIPS  
*To  get  a  jump  on  things,  make  the  cashew  cream  and  beets  up  to  2  days  ahead  and  chill  them  in  the  fridge.  You  can  even  make  the  bread  crisps  a  day  ahead.  Then  just  assemble  everything  and  serve.  

*Look  for  a  mix  of  colorful  beets  like  orange,  red,  and  Chioggia  (candy  cane).  

*Instead  of  crisping  the  bread  in  a  pan,  you  could  toss  the  paper-thin  slices  with  olive  oil  and  bake  in  a  single  layer  at  350ºF  until  crisp.  

Excerpted  from  the  book  THE  WICKED  HEALTHY  COOKBOOK  by  Chad  Sarno,  Derek  Sarno,  and  David  Joachim.  Copyright  ©  2018  by  Chad  Sarno  and  Derek  Sarno.Reprinted  with  permission  of  Grand  Central  Life  &  Style.  All  rights  reserved.    

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Woodland Sandals by JBU : Vegan Summertime Sandals!

It's a perfect match!!

These Woodland sandals are the last pair of vegan spring-summer shoes I'll be reviewing from Jambu this season, and they're perfect to come last in my line up of reviews because they are so nice for warm weather! 

These Woodland shoes, by JBU by Jambu, are great little summertime frolicking sandals.  I really appreciate that they're designed with several criss-crossing straps, in order to provide some stability, without looking clunky or excessively sporty. I mean, I love my Chacos as much as the next gal, but sometimes I don't want to look like I just walked home from the campfire. Ha ha! The navy blue material on these shoes is a sturdy faux suede (lined with equally sturdy and smooth faux leather). The flowery straps are elastic, so the shoes have a nice amount of stretch and give as you bop along. 

I've been wearing these shoes a lot lately, especially now that it's warming up here. I finally got around to taking some pictures when Mr. VE&T and I took our dogs for a walk down in Capitola, a cute little seaside city a few minutes from our house. As you'll see, it's officially springtime here, and everything is blooming! It's so beautiful. As soon as we got out of the car, we saw these delicate little purple and white flowers that perfectly matched the cute little flowers on the Woodland sandals. So cute. 


on the secret path

There's a secret little path you can take, and it goes right along the river front before the river meets the ocean. There are so many nice houses there with flowers everywhere. The dogs love this path because it's full of interesting smells (so they tell me!) and we love it because it's so beautiful.

The Woodland sandals are great for warm-weather antics, feeling summery, going to picnics, and having fun. There is a side strap by the outer ankle that secures the sandal to your liking. This is perfect for a comfortable day time shoe - but not as fully personalizable as some sandals that are purposefully designed for hiking or active outdoor wear. 

The soles are made partially with recycled materials (yeah!) and they have good traction and are sporty and functional, without feeling bulky or heavy. The insoles are made with memory foam and are really comfortable. If you have special foot needs (high arches, fallen arches, etc), these probably won't provide sufficient support for all-day touristy trekking or day hikes. But for the rest of our feet - I think you'll be happy with these summer sandals. 

bopping along! 


oh, hello!
it was chilly out, with only a bunch of seagulls on the beach that day.
Nary a tourist in sight! 

In my experience, the Woodland sandals are true to size - I wear a size 9, and these fit me perfectly in a size 9. They come in four colors: black, red, taupe, & navy blue. I picked navy blue, of course. They also come in sizes from 6 to 11, so (almost) everyone can enjoy them. Except for a few *unmentioned and beloved* women in my family who wear size 12 and 13. I am so lucky to be a size 9!

I really love that these sandals feel sporty and casual, as well as feminine and cute all at once! I've worn them with a skirt, with pants, with shorts, and with my usual professional wardrobe of yoga tights. They look cute with all those choices! They're not overtly glam with rhinestones or overly practical with 2-inch black straps either. Such a nice balance! I also feel like it has been hard over the years to find good vegan sandal options, beyond basic flip flops. I'm so glad that's finally changing! 


hip hip hooray! 

Jambu and its sub-brands JBU and JSport have so many great vegan shoes for women, and several of the vegan styles are also on sale right now! Some of the vegan styles are super sporty, others are more dressy, more feminine, dressy, practical... they have quite a range.

*Coupon to Save 20%!*
Use the coupon code VEGAN18 
to save 20% off any purchase at Jambu.com 
The coupon code is good through June 30th

If you're curious to see the other styles I've reviewed this season, I'll link to my posts below - or just head over to their site to see all your vegan shoe options! After over 17 years of veganism, it still feels like such a treat to have so many vegan shoes on the market. I'm so grateful! Let me know if you order any and which style you picked out!

My other Jambu shoe reviews this season:
Nelly Wedge  by JBU
Joy Shoes by JSport


I am a brand ambassador for Jambu's vegan line of shoes, and so I receive these shoes in exchange for doing an honest review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own! Thank you Jambu! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Mini-Retreat Treats: Spiced Dates (recipe) & Baci di Dama

Last weekend I taught a really fun yoga workshop: one of my All-Afternoon Mini-Retreats. I call it a "mini-retreat" because we have lots of time, and I get to teach many different components of yoga -- a good, long asana class, social time and a cookies & snack break, a talk on the Yoga Sutras (philosophy), and then ending with pranayama practice (breathing). It's such a special format and I just love teaching these workshops.
   
Not surprisingly, one of my favorite things about the whole workshop is the cookies & snacks break! I usually plan out which treats to make weeks before I've finalized any other details for the workshop. Ha ha. I love sharing vegan treats with other people! For the mini-retreat I always put a lot of thought into which treats to make. I know that people come to yoga to feel good and healthy, so I try to pick treats that aren't super heavy or wildly indulgent. I also prefer to come up with treats that are gluten-free, so that everyone can just enjoy and feel included. Lastly, I try to make one treat that is more on the fruity spectrum, and one that has chocolate. Because I know some people don't like chocolate, while other people (like me) don't actually acknowledge treats unless chocolate is involved. Ha ha!

poor student, unable to concentrate on yoga. dreaming of cookies! 




So, last weekend I made two special treats: Spiced Dates stuffed with Marmalade and Pistachios and Baci di Dama Cookies. Plus a bunch of organic mandarins from Trader Joe's! You can't go wrong with fruit! 



 
Spiced Dates stuffed with Marmalade & Pistachios
Makes 30 date halves

This recipe is inspired by the amazing stuffed dates that my friends Heidi and Amy made when they catered our wedding. I had never forgotten how delicious those dates were, but hadn't ever gotten around to recreating them. I asked them about those dates and got a good starting point. But then I couldn't leave well enough alone and started adding more stuff. I was also thinking about the warming spices in panforte, one of my favorite treats. I was super stoked at how well these turned out! 


15 Medjool Dates, cut in half, pits removed
1 cup raw pistachios
1/2 cup marmalade
2-4 Tbsp candied ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh lime zest
1/2 tsp fresh ginger
pinch cardamom
pinch white pepper

After halving and pitting the dates, mix together the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add 1-2 tsp of mixture to the hollow pit of each date. Smoosh it in there a bit. Continue until all the dates are stuffed. If there is extra filling, you will just have to eat it with a spoon.





I also make special water - I usually look around online for fun ideas for fancy spa water. Everyone already knows about cucumber water... so I like to make something a little more. This time I made water with strawberries + cucumbers + fresh mint leaves + lime slices. It was great combo. Happily, there was a lot leftover, so we enjoyed it at home for the rest of the weekend. My mom found this big, beautiful water dispenser for me at a thrift store last year and I love it so much. It's perfect for occasions like this.






Baci di Dama Cookies

These little "hamburger cookies" are actually called "Baci di Dama," which means "Lady's Kisses" in Italian. I used a recipe from David Leibowitz : https://www.davidlebovitz.com/baci-di-dama-cookies-recipe/

The only changes I made to the original recipe:
Instead of roasting my own hazelnuts, I used the Roasted Oregon Hazelnuts from Trader Joe's. Man, those are seriously good hazelnuts. We can just plow our way through a bag of those in no time at all. Mmm. Hazelnuts are one of my favorites. 


And instead of using a dairy-based butter, I used Miyoko's Cultured Vegan Butter (also from Trader Joe's).

The dough is quite delicate, but the result is a delicate cookie! If you wanted to make the whole thing a little more durable, you could probably use regular flour instead of rice flour. But obviously, using rice flour also results in a gluten-free cookie. I found that I had better luck making small rolls with my dough, and just working with patience and feeling non-rushed as I went. These charming and delicate little cookies are so cute and feel silly and sophisticated all at once! They look like tiny little hamburger UFO's, all of which feels playful and fun... but once you pop them in your mouth, the flavors are delicate and grown-up -- not very sweet, nutty, and a little blast of dark chocolate. Such a fun cookie.



 

I'm planning to teach another mini-retreat in July, so I guess I should start thinking about which treats to make next time! ha ha. Let me know if you try either of these treats!