Monday, January 09, 2017

Christmas Deliciousness & Cookbooklette Winners!!

Happy New Year, everyone! I took the week off between Christmas and New Years, and even though I should have used that time to post my Christmas eats, I was too busy enjoying my down time. I did some sleeping in, some home yoga practice, some reading, some painting (!!), some reflecting, lots of pet snuggling, and all around relaxing. It was pretty right on. 

So, now I'm back in action at the keyboard - and ready to share a massive post-holiday round-up with you -- featuring my delicious culinary Christmas time creations! 

me lounging, doing crossword puzzles, cuddling pets... not blogging!

Cookies for my Yoga Classes
yum yum yum

Every year I pick one week in December and I bring cookies to every single class that week. It's a fun tradition and I love baking for my students. I try to make some different varieties throughout the week, and I also always like to have some GF options for the gluten-freebies of the world. This year I made veganized Gingerbread Tiles from Tartine Bakery, GF Snickerdoodles from Oh She Glows, and Butterscotch Amaretti from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. They are all great recipes and were all appreciated! 

Pre-Christmas Dinner Parties
I usually have a Christmas party every year - but this year I just wasn't feeling it. I'm feeling pretty post-election subdued (ugh!), and was more in the mood for a few small dinner parties and gatherings. I had a few special people over for festive and intimate fun, which was just what the doctor ordered. 

Dinner with Mom and Dad

My parents came over to see our Christmas decor and make paper snowflakes and just be together. I always love spending time with them, and I know that makes me super super lucky. For our dinner, I made a batch of the African Peanut Soup from The Oh She Glows Cookbook (one of our all-time favorite recipes!), Kale Salad from Eat Like You Give A Damn (that is such a great recipe!), and a fresh loaf of francese bread from the bakery down the street. It was a cold and wintry night, and this meal completely hit the spot. 

I had some cookies left over from cookie week (safely stashed in the freezer!), so we enjoyed those for dessert. Mmmm! Delicious and easy too! ha ha

enchiladas, guacamole, salad, enchilada sauce, romano beans

My excellent friends Sophia and Max came over for dinner - and I made the Potato Kale Enchiladas from Veganomicon. I had been thinking about that recipe for quite a while! They were just as amazing as I remembered them! In fact, they were so amazing that when my friends Jane and JP came over the following weekend, I made them again! ha ha. No regrets. Just thinking about them makes me want to make them again and again and again. Damn that is a fine recipe. They're also great in the winter time - so warming and hearty and cozy.

cookie decorating, phase 1

After dinner, we engaged in our annual tradition of decorating gingerbread cookies! I use the recipe for Lower Fat Gingerbread Men from The Joy of Cooking (easily veganized) - I love this recipe, it's easy, reliable, and the flavor is just wonderful. I have made this recipe many, many times over the years and it's always a winner. We had a great time decorating cookies and nibbling on cookies and laughing and catching up. I made some special cookies for each of my nieces and nephews to go along with their holiday gifties. 
cookie decorating is fun! 

cookie fun, part two! 

Just a couple days before Xmas, my special bestie JJTWH and her awesome daughter came down to spend the day with us. It was SO fun. I just love spending time with them!! We had a lovely time, listened to holiday music, ate lunch, made paper snowflakes, and then decorated cookies. My little pal did a lot better with the paper snowflakes this year, compared to last year - and it was just so fun to share in the joy and enthusiasm of holiday festivities with a kiddo! Since I don't have kids of my own, it's really special for me to have a kid in my life who I love so much and who loves me back. It really means a lot to me, and I especially love doing holiday funzies with her! I also love watching kids decorate cookies - they always go ALL IN on the frosting and sprinkles. ha ha.

Italian Christmas for Christmas Eve Dinner! 

antipasto plate

This year, for the second year in a row, my family had "Italian Christmas" for our Christmas Eve Dinner. It's so fun and delicious and pretty much everyone likes Italian food, so you can't go wrong! 

My mom was in charge of the antipasti, and of course she did an amazing job! First up was this huge and glorious platter of marinated and roasted veggies. Holy moly, these were just so delicious. She has the magic touch! 
cani di natale

good for your heart!

She also made a very simple and delicious dish of huge white beans and olives and herbs and some sort of tasty dressing. My momsie makes super amazing salad dressings - I know this looks plain, but it was quite lovely!

straight outta Trader Joes

Right before Christmas, I was at Trader Joes and I saw a big attractive jar of Tuscan Antipasto and just couldn't resist it. It had olives and sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts - it was very good indeed, but definitely not as good as the antipasti that my mom made! Mom wins every time! 

my antipasti

There was also some vegan cheese (I bought Treeline cheese), fresh breads, and a fancy date-fig-dried fruit block to go with the cheeses. There were some non-vegan things too, but we just won't talk about that, okay? 

Christmas Lasagnas - pre-baking!

I love love love lasagna so much! It is one of my favorite foods in the whole world, and I am quite pleased with my own vegan lasagna recipe. I thought about making a butternut squash / bechemel variation this year... but the thought of straying away from an established favorite seemed too risky. So I stuck with old faithful. My aunt and her partner are also vegans, but they follow a no-salt no-oil diet (unlike me), so I made them their very own personalized lasagna -- just like mine but with no added salt or oil. 

all baked ~ toasty! and with bad lighting!

As it turns out, I pretty much made myself a personal lasagna too! Just a couple people besides me even tried my lasagna on Xmas Eve, since there was also my mom's non-vegan lasagna. FINE by me! Mwahahahaha! This meant that we actually had a huge wonderful lasagna to eat for several days, and that is like a Christmas present I made just for myself. 

amey-santa is a great gift-giver!

Just look inside at all that goodness: 
layers of veggies, sauce, noodles, and tofu ricotta. Man, I love lasagna so much.

contorno: green beans! 

My aunt made a huge dish of green beans with a nice sauce and toasted sliced almonds on top. The green beans weren't a big hit with the teenagers, but I loved them. Green beans are one of my favorite veggies. 

array-of-desserts platter

I was inspired by Cara's "dessert charcuterie platter" over at her blog Fork and Beans, so I took that idea and made it my own. I made a huge abundant platter of Christmas desserts -- homemade panfortemostaccioli cookies (veganized and halved from this recipe), peppermint chocolate squares from Chauo Chocolatiernuts (pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds), and fresh fruit (clementines, fuyu persimmons, and pomegranate arils). 

I loved the way this looked -- and tasted! With all the different dietaries needs and preferences in our family, this was a fun way to provide something for everyone and make it feel more cohesive and less divisive. We just passed the platter around (several times!) and people could nab whatever goodies their heart desired. And I loved the look of all the colors and textures and abundance!  

Christmas Day Dinner
Xmas, Take Two!

The very next night, we had another family dinner over at my brother and his gal's house. This time around was a much more traditional American Christmas meal, with plenty of non-vegan options -- but my family took such loving care of me. My sister-in-law made me my very own side dish of vegan mashed potatoes (she is really good at mashed potatoes!) and another of vegan stuffing. All for meeeeee. Yum! The roasted Brussels Sprouts were veegs, and so was the salad (there was cheese on the side for those people). Ha ha. I was so happy! As you can see, I also brought along some excellent "Breast of Tofu" -- it's an old and delicious recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan, plus the name is just so funny. It's lightly dredged in seasoned flour, and I cooked them in my new air fryer which was a totally excellent idea, if I do say so myself. 

Mini-Mince Pies

I was in charge of dessert, so I made a batch of mini-mince pies, using a batch of mince that I had been "marinating" for about a month in my fridge: quince, apples, raisins, figs, spices, and brandy. Mmmmm. I love mince pies, and I don't make them very often -- it's been several years! So it was fun to have them again.

mince eyes!

Cosmo's Apple Pie

I also made an apple pie, and I used the pastry recipe from Joy of Cooking (just using half Earth Balance and half refined Coconut Oil instead of shortening), and I used the apple filling recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky. This pie was SO GOOD. I was immensely proud of it! 

My crazy family isn't really into dessert, and so I think only my parents and I tried the mince pies, and only about 4-5 of us tried the apple pie. That's just wacky! So, I sent some home with various people, and we popped several mini mincies in the freezer for future enjoyment. 

pure glory.

We also had leftover apple pie for a few days after Christmas, which was yet another excellent gift I had prepared for myself. I really know what to get for myself. Ha! Look at that wonderful crust! And that apple-y filling! So scrumptious. Would eat again.

Food Gifts Made by Me! 
100% classic fruitcake!

Last but not least, I wanted to share a few of the homemade edible gifts that I made this year! I didn't want to post them before xmas - for obvious reasons! Several people on my gift list also read my blog and I didn't want to ruin the surprise. I know fruitcake gets a bad name, but I actually really love it. A couple years ago I made some, and it was pretty good -- but it wasn't the classic fruitcake. Then my instagram friend Tish posted some pictures of her fruitcake and I was all "WHOA DUDE. Tell me about that fruitcake!" (her instagram is @tpat35, such a great feed!)

She very graciously sent me a collection of old fruitcake recipes from a magazine, which she had gotten from her mom I think. I was stoked! I sorta combined two of them... and I'm sorry to say I don't really have a recipe to share. I did take some notes - hopefully they are sufficient to make this again because my mini-fruitcakes turned out amazingly well! I was so happy with them - I made six minis, and of course we kept one for ourselves. 

hot sauces & mustard!

from left to right:
(red) Roman Sambal Fermented Hot Sauce
(orange) Homemade Hot Sauce
(yellow) Caribbean Habanero Hot Sauce
(green) Jalepeno Hot Sauce
(little) Beer Mustard) 

I love giving home made gifts -- especially culinary gifts that people can use and enjoy and then be done with! I've been trying to do more than just make cookies every year. I mean, obviously I love cookies, but there is already so much sugar at the holidays, and I've been trying to think of things I could make that aren't a part of that whole scene.

So this year, my friend Sophia and I had a super fun culinary craft day and made Hot Sauces and Beer Mustard! How cool is that!? We used this super helpful website for our hot sauce recipes. As you can see we made several of them, and they are all wonderful - and also all quite different!!! I think my top two favorites are the Roman Sambal and the Homemade Hot Sauce. We used peppers from the farmers market and we chose to leave all the seeds in for maximum punch - mission accomplished! 

I mostly made these for my brother, who LOVES hot sauce - and I gave him a complete rainbow set. But I have some other hot-sauce-loving friends and family who got a jar or two. And I made a batch of the green jalepeno sauce with no salt for my aunt who doesn't eat salt, and that was a big hit too! In fact, it turns out that a lot of my friends like hot sauce, so I've already made a couple of emergency secondary hot sauce batches to share with my nephew and a couple friends. Christmas in January!

We used this recipe for the Beer Mustard - and we soaked our mustard seeds in a nice (vegan) dark beer from a local brewery here in town. My friend Sophia was in charge of that part! You guys - it turns out that mustard is super easy to make. I would like to experiment more with new flavors and varieties. We tweaked the recipe a little bit to our tastes - and pureed it until it was a consistency that we wanted. Also, if you try this at home - watch out for the highly potent mustard fumes that will emanate from your blender!!! It actually compelled us to do a wikipedia search on mustard gas! ha ha. But the result is a strong and delicious mustard. What a fun thing to make!!

Cookbooklette Winners! 
Last but not least - I have ten lucky winners of this year's homemade Cookbooklette!
Congrats to:
Erin / Andrea / Diana / Tess R / Choirqueer
Michelle P / Elizabeth / Anonymous / Heather / CCarter

Happy New Year!
Thanks to everyone who entered! 


  1. I love your roundup posts. Everything looks fantastic, but I'm especially tickled by your lil fruitcakes. Nom!

  2. mom always wins!! it's true. what a wonderful (and delicious) holiday season. Happy New Year!

  3. It all looks amazing, but I'm really drooling over your pie!!

  4. Happy New Year Amey!

  5. Wow, Amey, you were a cooking and baking machine! Everything looks so good. I have never seen such a beautiful lasagne, and the apple pie looks perfect!

    And thank you for the cookbooklette! I'm so excited! Yay!

  6. Well that was quite a season, wasn't it?! Your pictures bring back all those good times and tastes ... and we're still enjoying the leftovers and gifts! Although dessert is not normally part of our dinner routine, we've been treating ourselves to various little treats ever since Christmas. The panforte, fruitcake and ginger tiles are now gone (YUM), but hazelnuts, applesauce, mustard and biscotti are still available. And the cookbook lives on. Thanks sweetie!

  7. Yay for winning the cookbook! I always love your food round up posts and get some new ideas!

  8. Hello! I read your blog regularly, but I rarely comment... for your cookie decorations, did you use aquafaba royal icing, or something else? Any chance of sharing the recipe, please? Thank you! (Also, your blog is amazing, but that's a given!)

  9. Oh, my goodness, Amey! You gave me about 4 million great ideas in this one post!

  10. My cookbooklette arrived last week and I squeed aloud in happiness, my husband was confused. Thank you again!!!

  11. Your lasagna always blows me away, every year when I see a pic of your Christmas lasagna. I wish I could have some!!!

  12. You spent your week off the way it should be spent - sounds glorious =)
    "It's a fun tradition and I love baking for my students." Ummmm I need to come to your class sometime haha ;) Actually, for seriously, I really should check out one of your classes sometime, it would be pretty cool =)
    Wow. All of your Christmas meals look amazing. Your lasagna looks SO GOOD! I would have eaten so much of that. Yum!
    It looks like you had such a nice time with family - I'm glad you got so much time with your parents.
    I love making homemade gifts too - they are my favourite to receive, so I always hope my friends like getting the gifts as much as I like making them =)


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