Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fruitcake! For Realz

People are always making jokes about how no one wants a fruitcake, but - here's the thing - I really do want some fruitcake. The store-bought kind never seems to be vegan, unfortunately. In previous years, I've often made panforte - which is essentially a dense Italian version of fruitcake. But this year, I was determined to make a proper fruitcake! 

ready to go in the oven 

I turned to a classic recipe from The Joy of Cooking. The recipe was super easy to veganize, because it didn't have any eggs and I just replaced the butter with half Earth Balance and half coconut oil. The recipe called for a few things I didn't have: a big variety of candied fruit and a 10-inch tube pan. I used a combo of one container of brightly colored cheapo candied fruit from the grocery store and then I used a bunch of nice dried fruits instead of candied fruit. I looked up some conversion charts online and used two 9-inch cake pans instead of a 10-inch tube pan. The batter was thick and was essentially pressed into the pans - which were carefully greased and then lined with parchment paper on the bottoms and the sides.

out of the oven, ready for a stiff drink
look at all the nuts and raisins and goodies in there! 

The cakes baked for a few hours at a low temperature. The recipe said "it will look like it's done after two hours, but don't be fooled." In truth, I should have been fooled. I think maybe the cake pan conversion tip I followed wasn't spot on, because the edges of my cake got a bit overcooked. No worries, I was already planning to cut this up and divvy it up amongst people for prezzies - so I just carefully trimmed off the outer edges.

After the cake is fully cooled and removed from the pans, you poke the cake with a number of small holes and pour on one entire cup of hot brandy. Oh yes I did! I love me some boozy desserts. This was a fun process. I liked deliberately poking holes in my cake and I liked watching the warm brandy disappear and be absorbed into the cake. Exciting!

wrapped up and waiting for Christmas

After pouring on the brandy, the recipe suggests wrapping the cakes in saran wrap - for up to a few months! Wow! I made mine right before Thanksgiving, so they have been absorbing the brandy all this time, and I have been staring at them and smelling them through the saran wrap.

Of course, your keen eyes have noticed that one of those cakes in already cut in half. What a mystery!? We ate it. Ha ha. Mystery solved. I couldn't stand to wait so long to learn about this fun creation. The flavor of this cake is quite delicious - but I still feel like it's a bit rough around the edges (literally, in this case!) - and I need to continue my research on making a proper fruitcake. Do you have any favorite recipes or fruit cake tips? I am looking for a class fruitcake, nothing too nouveau or shi-shi-la-la, if you know what I mean. Bring me your fruitcake advice! 

ps. Sorry Mom and Dad, now you know what you are getting for Christmas. I love you! 

pps. Don't forget to enter my contest to win one of my annual hand-drawn Cookbooklettes! 
I'll be drawing a winner on Friday Dec 19th. Good luck!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cookie Party! & Annual Cookbooklette Giveaway!

a serious array of vegan cookies

This weekend we hosted our annual Vegan Christmas Cookie Swap Party! You know those parties where everyone gets together to swap holiday cookies? And you know how you could never go, because none of the cookies would be vegan except your own? Well, my pals and I have solved that problem -- for years now, we've had a cookie party and it's great fun!

One lesson we learned the hard way is that the cookie party needs to start off with a proper, super-healthy dinner. This ensures that you are comfortably full with yummy, nutritious food before you even approach the cookies. This also ensure that more cookies will make it home (for freezing or re-gifting), and fewer cookies will go straight to your tummy.

I made a gigantic pot of Minestrone Soup. My friend Ms. A brought an absolutely delicious salad of chickpeas, roasted winter squash, sprouts, and garlic-ginger pumpkin seed dressing. That pumpkin seed dressing was totally amazing. And Ms. N brought along a wonderful grain salad with zucchini, chickpeas and preserved lemon - from "Salad Samurai." Without any coordination, this was a great combo of dishes!

 After our big dinner, we sat around and chatted and caught up, and generally relaxed while we digested for a bit. Meanwhile, Mr. VE&T went over and ate a few cookies. Later, when we were finally ready to do some cookie sampling -- we had made our tea and decaf coffee, we had our little cookie plates at the ready -- we headed over to the cookie table to survey our accomplishments.

My friends and I have a nice potluck tradition where we each go around and "introduce" the dishes we brought. So, we were all standing there (politely!) describing the cookies we had made and waiting to sample them. Meanwhile, Mr. VE&T kept reaching in and grabbing cookies and going "mmm!" Ha ha! He's got some serious enthusiasm. At this point, my friend Ms. A whispered to me "you've gotta do a doodle of that!"

Last year, it was my friend Ms. N who went crazy and made 5 different kinds of cookies. This year, I was that person. What can I say?! I am in full-on Christmas spirit mode this year! So, I'll start with the cookies I made, and then the ones my pals made. Where possible, I'll link to the recipes.

Lebkuchen: German gingerbread-type cookies

This recipe is from Mihl's totally stunning (and free!) new e-book of Christmas recipes, Zuckerguss Zine. Check it out... I mean, really : Stollen Waffles?? I cannot wait to try that recipe.

Marzipan Jam Cookies

Also from Zuckerguss Zine. Oh my gosh, dear reader, these cookies are so delicious and not hard at all to make. Don't they look fancy and amazing? It's a shortbread cookie with a marzipan swirl and a dollop of jam. YUM. I used some plum jam that a friend gave me this summer, and it was great - just a touch tart and a touch sweet. 

Almond & Candied Citrus Spice Cookies

Here is the recipe, also from Seitan is my Motor. Do you remember the candied lime and orange peel I made from "Vegan Food Gifts" last week? Well, I put those babies right to work in these cookies, and OH MY GOD. I think this might be one of my top cookies ever. So good. My pal Ms N took one bite of this cookie and her eyes rolled back in her head and she started swooning and decided to simply leave it at that and not eat any other cookies that night. Seriously, these are magical.

Obviously, I totally groove on Mihl's cookie sensibilities. I have so many more recipes from her blog bookmarked, that I have yet to try.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

This recipe from My Darling Vegan caught my eye recently and I'm so glad I tried it. The cookies were easy to make, the recipe made a ton of (small) cookies, and they came out perfectly! They've got peppermint extract and crushed candy canes in them for some real peppermint pizzazz. I also added a touch of chocolate extract for extra chocolate power! This recipe is highly recommended.

Angela's Turtle Cookies

I really fell in love with The Oh She Glows Cookbook this year, so when I saw this recipe from Angela Liddon - featured as a guest post on the Keepin It Kind blog, I knew I'd like it. The cookies have dates and pecans and chocolate chips and they are hearty without being heavy - a perfect oatmeal cookie. I even accidentally left out ALL of the maple syrup, and then I thought to myself "this dough seems too dry" and so, fortunately I added a little bit of maple syrup... and the cookies still came out great. What a forgiving recipe! 

By the way, Kristy at Keepin It Kind has a load of great cookie recipes up online, from her virtual
online cookie swap party last year. Check it out!

So, like a crazed cookie elf, I made all those cookies. But happily, my friends made cookies too!

 Chocolate Chip Rosemary Cookies

Maybe you've heard about this surprising and delicious recipe - it's featured in Isa's most recent cookbook "Isa Does It," but you can also find the recipe (and a video!) here. I havn't yet made this recipe myself, so I was super glad that my pal Ms. K brought these. I was so curious about them. I'm a bit of an herb-i-phobe when it comes to sweeties, but I really did like these. I think when I make them, I'll probably reduce the rosemary just a touch, because of my sensibilities, but I was surprised by how much I liked them.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies ~ and ~ Sourdough Peanut Butter Blondies

Ms. K also brought along some delicious Chocolate Ginger Cookies - also from Isa Does It. Such perfect texture and flavor! Apparently they are supposed to have white chocolate chips, but we don't really have those available around here. Plus, is it ever possible to go wrong with regular chocolate chips? I don't think so.

Ms. S brought Sourdough Peanut Butter Blondies. She presented them as a bit of an experiment, but I thought they came out perfectly - a great degree of density and cakiness (not too far in either direction), a great peanutty flavor that wasn't overwhelming, and I loved the big crunch of the roasted peanuts on top.

 Graham Cracker Sandwich Cookies ~ and ~ Linzer Cookies

Boy howdy, aren't these beautiful?? Ms. S also brought these super fancy cookies - two different kinds of Linzer cookies (some with raspberry jam filling and some with chocolate ganache filling), and graham cracker sandwich cookies with chocolate buttercream filling. Ooh la la! Aren't those little teddy bear cut-outs adorable?!

 Chocolate-Dipped Earl Grey Shortbreads

Ms. A brought these shortbreads and they were AMAZING. Perfectly delicate and crumbly, just the right hint of Earl Grey flavor, and the chocolate on just half the cookie was great. I gave my mom and dad a little sampler pack of cookies from this party and my mom was quite smitten with these.

Lime Icebox Cookies

Ms N brought three different treats: first up, these lovely citrusy gems - based on the Grapefruit Icebox Cookies recipe from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar." I had recently given her a bunch of limes from our lime tree - and look what she did with them. Yeah! I oughta give her limes more often! As much as I love chocolatey treats, I also have a life-long love of citrusy treats, and I was quite impressed with these.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

She also brought a sizeable batch of Chocolate Peppermint Bark, much to my delight. I think the chocolate + peppermint combo is truly one of my greatest joys in life. Why is it so magical? Best of all, Mr. VE&T isn't really that into it (fool!), so it just means more for me. Mwahahaha. I think she said this was chocolate, peppermint oil, and crushed candy canes. It was the first thing I nibbled on, because I find it totally irresistible. 

Pecan Pie Truffles

Have you ever tried this recipe from Hannah Kaminsky? It was featured in the NYT a while back and it is totally superb. I've been thinking about this recipe, but hadn't made it since at least last year - and happily Ms N showed up with a cake pan full of them! They are basically balls of pecans, bourbon and brown sugar - rolled in dark chocolate. They are crazy good - crunchy, boozy, and satisfying.

So, as you can see - it was a quite a cookie party! Every single creation was absolutely delicious this year - no duds! Bit by bit, we are all improving our culinary skills - and the cookie party definitely shows that the proof is in the pudding. I've got a freezer full of cookies now. I'll share some with friends and my yoga students, and I'll definitely stash some away for future treats too. I like to have a little supply of sweeties on hand for my moments of need. 

portrait of the artist as a cookie monster

** We have a winner from the "Vegan Food Gifts" giveaway **
Congratulations to comment #27: Jen English!
**You guys. This is so cool. Jen is the person who inspired me to become a vegan, 15 years ago. And she just won this contest fair and square! How awesome is that!? <3 p="">

Annual Cookbooklette Giveaway!

Don't worry, even if you didn't win, I've got another giveaway for you! It's that time of the year when I give away TEN copies of my homemade zine. This contest is open to everyone, everywhere, all around the world! This little zine has recipes that I fell in love with this year (from various cookbooks and websites), along with lots of little cartoon doodles like the ones on my blog.

To Enter: just leave a comment on this post and say some thing about this post, or about cookies, or christmas, or zines or whatever. Also, please make sure you leave your email address or that your profile links to your email address. If I can't easily track you down to notify you, I"ll just move on and pick another winner. I'll pick a winner next Friday, December 19th. Good luck! 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas! & "Vegan Food Gifts" Giveaway!

I've never done holiday gift guide post before! The truth is, I don't really buy all that many Christmas presents. My whole family is pretty low-key about gifts. I usually give everyone a copy of my little homemade annual recipe cookbooklette, some homemade applesauce, and a few other homemade edible goodies.

And yet, I have a secret joy : I love looking at holiday gift guides. I just like reading about all the cool goodies and books and treats that exist, even if I never buy them. So, in light of that, I thought I'd present you with some of my favorite finds of the year, as well as a few stand-by favorites-- books, treats, and fun stuff. You can buy them for people on your list, or you can put them on your own wish list, or you can just read about them and then give everyone some applesauce and homemade cookies. ha ha! If you're a fellow homemade-gifts fan like me, be sure to make it to the end of the post - I've got a giveaway for a copy of Joni's amazing book "Vegan Food Gifts." Yeah!

Wax Orchards Chocolate Sauce 
Have you ever tried this stuff? I love it so much. It's entirely sweetened with fruit, it's thick and fudgey, and it's only 45 calories for a whole tablespoon. I first found this stuff many, many years ago when I lived in Seattle after graduating from college. Happily, it's vegan, and delicious. When I looked up the link, I saw that now that have peppermint and orange fudge sauces too. Those sound great, but I've never tried them! I love putting this stuff on my vanilla ice cream, or - more commonly - just eating a little dab of it when I want a chocolatey blast.

Freddy Guys Amazing Hazelnuts
These are the best hazelnuts ever, anywhere in the world. I first found them at the PSU farmers market in Portland, and fell in love. Then, I tried buying roasted hazelnuts other places - and even tried roasting my own. Nothing compares to these. Now, I order these online and always get enought to give my family and friends for holiday gifts. They're perfectly fat and plump and perfectly roasted and consistently great, one after the next. Pro tip: They are really good with chocolate chips.

Julie's Original Gluten Free Cake Mixes
I finally tried these mixes recently and was super impressed - I plan on giving a couple boxes of these as gifts to some of my gluten-free friends. I also plan on using my last box of the Fudge Brownie Mix to make brownies for my gluten-free yoga students!

Sweet & Sara Marshmallows 
Sara makes the most crazy delicious vegan marshmallows. They come in classic vanilla, many other great flavors, snowman shapes, reindeer shapes, smores, and my favorite: Toasted Coconut. She also has the sweetest Facebook feed, in which she shares the joys and toils of being a small business owner and her overflowing love for her darling parents, who work with her at the marshmallow factory. You can buy delicious treats, support an awesome family, and feel doubly good about your purchase!

Just Great Stuff 
I've noticed that most powdered peanut butter fans seem to prefer PB2, but I like this stuff. It has pretty much the same nutritional profile, but unlike PB2, Just Great Stuff Powdered Peanut Butter is organic and GMO-free. This especially matters to me with the chocolate variety, because organic chocolate has a much higher likelihood of being grown and processed without slave labor.

Jeanette Zeis Ceramics 
Oh man. Swoon!! Jeanette's work is SO beautiful. I've been coveting her work and hoping desperately to win one of her exclusive annual "Vegan MoFo" mugs for years. Last year I finally broke down and bought myself two small blue cereal bowls and two cheery yellow plates. The bowls have a little bird stamped on the other side, and the yellow plates say "vegan" and have a little heart-shape stamped into them. You've definitely seen these dishes make frequent appearances on my blog and on my Instagram account. I love them so much. Beautifully crafted, perfectly glazed, sunny and clearly made with love.

Mat and Natt Bag 
A while back, I was looking high and low for a new purse. I had so many picky things that I wanted in my "perfect bag." Then, along came the VidaVegan Con conference in 2013, and I spotted this turquoise Mat and Natt bag and it was love at first sight. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and my awesome mom bought it for me - right then and there! - for a birthday present. I've used this bag every day, rain or shine, around the world for about 18 months now and it is truly as good as new. No signs of wear, as pretty and lovely and functional as ever. Mat and Natt makes loads of bags, wallets, and accessories - all vegan (!), for men and women, all very stylish. They aren't cheap, but based on my experience, they're worth the investment.

VidaVeganCon 2015 ticket! 
While we're on the topic of VidaVeganCon, did you know that the next best-ever-vegan-extravaganza-little-conference-that-could is coming up in May of 2015 in Austin Texas??!! It's gonna be so super awesome. I'll even be there as a speaker (and as a fellow attendee). Put it on your wish list folks, the VVC is such a great time.

Elephant Sweatshirt from Herbivore
How about some fun goodies from Herbivore? You can buy some for your friends and family, and put some on your wishlist too! Over the years, I've got tees, sweatshirts, buttons, stickers, wallets, jewelry, cards, and cookbooks all from Herbivore. I have at least 4 different versions of the "Compassion is Invincible" t-shirt, and my recent favorite is the bright blue Elephant fleece sweatshirt. It's cozy and beautiful. You can probably find something awesome for most people on your list at Herbivore - and you'll be supporting a super awesome vegan-owned store too!

Jambu Esmerelda Boots
Truth be told, I am usually wearing flip-flops. Since I'm often on my way to or from teaching yoga, i like to be able to easily kick off my shoes. My second most common pair of shoes is probably my bike shoes. But sometimes, I wanna get out of my yoga clothes and feel like a legitimate member of society. These Jambu boots are so pretty and so comfy and I always feel swanky and awesome when I wear them. They give me a little swagger in my step! They're quite warm too - I think they're lightly lined inside - so they keep my feet stylish and cozy all at once.

Tom's Vegan Platform Wedges
Sometimes I even go all the way out and put away my yoga shorts and put on a skirt! Imagine that! People always seem a bit surprised to learn this, but I like wearing heels. It makes me feel tall and fancy. I've got 3-4 pairs of heels in my closet, but once I found these, they immediately became my favorite pair. Because they're platform wedges, you get the height without much pressure on your feet. They're really comfortable, totally vegan, and really pretty too. Plus, they're on sale on Zappo's right now!

Merrell Vegan Hiking Boots
I just bought these recently, when my old pair of non-vegan hiking boots finally bit the dust (after 15 years). These Merrell boots are vegan and comfy and pretty and my feet feel really secure in them. It's so great that there are so many vegan hiking boot options these days!

Awesome Vegan Cookbooks! 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook - by Angela Liddon
This book was the surprise hit of the year for Mr VE&T and me. I have made so many recipes from OSG that have become instant favorites in our household. I absolutely love the style of Angela's recipes - healthy (without being obsessive), fresh, textured, delicious (!), and easy. There are super healthy meals, indulgent treats, and everything in between. I am a total convert, and I've already bought this book for a few people this year.

Salad Samurai ~ by Terry Hope Romero
Terry's salad book was another of my top favorites this year! SO many delicious, creative, and memorable salads that have graced our table thanks to this book. The recipes are organized by season (love this!), and are truly special. Left to my own devices, I can make a killer green salad, but don't really know where to go from there. You might think a whole cookbook dedicated to salads seems silly, but this book is definitely worth owning because the recipes are exciting and not like salads you've had before.

Vegan Casseroles ~ by Julie Hasson
I've really been enjoying the recipes in this book a lot - especially in the fall and winter with more family gatherings, and more of an appetite for warm, oven-baked hearty dishes. I think this is a really great book to have in your collection for those times when you want to cook a delicious and hearty meal to feed a crowd (or to feed yourself for a few days!). Plus, giving cookbooks to people who might also one day cook for you is also a very clever tactic - because then they will know what to make for you. Mwahaha!

Oatrageous Oatmeals ~ by Kathy Hester
I actually won this book from a giveaway, and I love it! It's chock full of creative recipes for oatmeal breakfasts, drinks, savory entrees, and treats. I am quite amazed at how many compelling uses Kathy has found for oats - and I have so many recipes bookmarked already!

Maybe, even after looking at all those fun gift ideas, you still just want to bake cookies and give homemade treats to your loved ones. Homemade gifts are always so special! Last week, Joni over at Just The Food asked me if I'd like to do a giveaway of her awesome book "Vegan Food Gifts." Heck, yeah!

a few of the goodies I've made so far from "Vegan Food Gifts:"
1. Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies ~ 2. Candied Orange and Lime Peels ~ 3. Savory Bar Nuts

This book is stuffed full with ideas for homemade gifts: sweeties, savories, baked goods, cookie mixes in jars, alcoholic treats, infused olive oils, gift baskets, and more. The book even includes loads of tips on how to wrap your gifts, with directions on how to make all sorts of homemade boxes and gift bags. It's super fun. A few other things I've really enjoyed about this book: the recipes include measurements by volume and weight (I always appreciate that), each recipe is marked with symbols indicating how complicated it is and how expensive it will be to make, & each recipe includes suggestions for how to best wrap and present your gifts.

As soon as I got my copy, I dove right in and got busy. I'm in the holiday spirit, y'all! I made two batches of candied citrus peel - a double batch of orange peels and a batch of lime peels (all with fruit from our own trees!). These were fun and easy. I have in mind to give some of these as gifts and to use the rest of it in holiday baking.  Next I made a batch of the Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. I got 40 cookies out of it! I'm hosting a vegan Holiday Cookie Party this weekend, so these will be up for swapping this weekend. I also made a batch of the Bar Nuts. These are amazing! Unfortunately I slightly over-roasted them just a tiny bit, but I rescued them before anything actually became too roasted to be tasty. Next time I think I'll lower the temp &/or the time a little bit. But the flavors are amazing: various dried herbs and a touch of sweetener combine for super, super tasty nut nibbles. I put some in the fridge for Mr. VE&T, and hid the rest from him so I can give it as gifts. Yum!

So, thanks to Joni, I'm delighted to host a giveaway for a copy of this great book just in time for the holidays to one lucky person. And, best of all - since Joni is so rad, this giveaway is open to everyone in the whole world! Ho ho ho!

To enter, just leave a comment here, about your favorite gifts to give or the best homemade gift you've ever received - and I'll pick a winner Thursday Dec 11th. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Goodies from Vega!

Whenever I offer my husband a treat, he asks "Is this from Vega?" Or if he wants to share something with me, he'll check the ingredients and ask "Is this from Vega?" In other words, "is this from Vega?" is his way of asking "is this vegan?" He even calls me and my fellow vegans "The People of Vega." Ha ha.

Well, recently I received some actual Goodies From Vega. That is to say that the folks at the protein and nutrition company Vega sent me a couple of products to try out.

treats from Vega!

They sent me a box of French Vanilla VegaOne all-in-one nutrition shake packets, some Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, and a Vega Smoothie cup. The thing is, I am already a major fan of Vega products ~ and in fact we've got all sorts of Vega goodies lining our pantry. So, I thought I'd do a big review of various Vega products we use and like... not just the ones they sent me.

I'm really curious about other people's experiences and thoughts about protein powders and such. I'm not typically posting about my daily protein shake or power bar, but when I started counting calories a couple of years ago, I was surprised to learn that I was really not getting as much protein as I needed at all. Like, I was getting half of what I should have. Counting calories and tracking protein has been a really neat experience for me, and has helped me make much more informed choices about what I eat. I'm really fortunate that I can keep track of my food like this and not get too worked up about it. One reason I don't blog about it much is that I know it can be a sensitive topic for a lot of really great people. Anyhow, in the end of all this, one result is that I now eat some sort of smoothie or bar 3-4 times a week, just to make sure I meet my protein minimums. And, I feel like this has had a positive impact on my health - fewer injuries, quicker healing times, and ability to finally gain a modest amount of muscle mass.

I'm not a super sporty mega-athlete like some vegans I know. I'm not training for marathons or racing bikes or anything like that. But, I'm a fairly active person. I practice and teach lots of yoga, I work out with a trainer twice a week, and I commute on my bike a few times a week.

Mr VE&T is a pretty sporty fella too - he plays lots of tennis (sometimes for hours on end!), and swims a lot. We both watch our calories and try to stay fit and make sure we aren't pushing our bodies without also getting good nourishment.

I don't remember when I first learned about Vega products, but I've been grooving on them for a while. One of my favorites Vega products is the VegaOne All-in-One Nutritional Shake Powder. I really love that this stuff is not just protein powder, but also has fiber, omega 3s, probiotics, veggies, loads of vitamins and nutrients. It's a helluva lot of good stuff in there!

As I was working on this post, I received another parcel from Vega (yay!) with their newly enhanced Vegan One All-in-one powder. Apparently, they've made a few shifts - now this product has 20 grams of protein (double yay!),  double the amount of greens, and is entirely from whole food sources (no synthetics). The flavor is slightly less sweet than the previous iteration and the French Vanilla flavor is slightly less pronounced, but basically quite similar. I look forward to trying the new chocolate flavor once I've made my way through what I already have.

This stuff is my #1 protein powder. I have two big tubs in my pantry: natural (aka "plain"), and chocolate -- and now the packets of French Vanilla that they sent me. I used to always use this stuff with frozen fruits and almond milk to make smoothies. But, lately, I've just been mixing it with water. I'm not gonna lie - this isn't just the tastiest thing you've ever drank in your whole life. But I think it's pretty darned good, and I really appreciate that it's packed full with vitamins, omega-3s, and nutrients - in addition to protein. I'm especially glad that they've raised the amount of protein in the mixes.
~ natural flavor - better for smoothies with fruits, when you don't want something chocolatey
~ french vanilla - a surprise hit! I didn't expect to like this one, but I really do. I like it just mixed with water.
~ chocolate - I like this flavor on it's own (mixed with water), and I also like it smoothie-style with berries and almond milk. Mmm! Chocolate is and always will be my favorite.

old bars on the left, new bars on the right

I also really like the Vega Bars. I was a big fan of their old Chocolate Almond Vegan Bars, but - alas! - they've discontinued them. Like it or not, Vega is always revamping their products, updating and improving them. Recently they stopped making the VegaOne All-in-one Bars and came out with a new line of bars. I bought myself the variety pack from their site, so I could try them all out. I like the new bars alright, but I'll miss the old ones (luckily I took advantage of their excellent closeout prices and stocked up).

Now they have three kinds of bars: Vega Snack Bars, Vega Sport Bars, and Vega One All-in-one Bars. Like I mentioned above, I don't blab about it much on my blog, but I'm a pretty devoted calorie counter - and I generally only turn to "bars" when I want a high-protein snack that can tide me over for a while. When it comes to bars, my priorities are: tastiness, high protein, and low-calorie. Unfortunately for me, the new Vega All-in-one Bars are lower in protein (12g) and higher in calories (260) than their old bars. That said, as far as "meal replacement bars" go ~ the new All-in-ones have some impressive stats: 4 grams fiber, 1 serving of greens, 1 billion probiotics, 1 gr of Omega-3s, antioxidants, and lots of vitamins and minerals. So, I'll probably still keep some of these around for when I don't have time for a proper meal. The Snack Bars and Vega Sport Bars are both more high-carb bars - neither has much protein (3gr, and 4gr, respectively). I probably won't buy either of those again in the future.

Vega has a three-tier system in their products for athletes: preparing for a workout, sustaining during a workout, and recovering after a workout. Like I said, I really don't ever workout with enough intensity to merit this sort of thing. Mr. VE&T works pretty hard on the tennis court though - and he often ends up with cramps and aches after few days of playing lots of tennis. So, I started buying some of the Vega "recovery" products for him. First I got him the recovery accelerator drink - and he really likes it. He also seems to feel that it helps him bounce back from lots of tennis time. I bought him a small tub of Apple-Berry flavor, but then the folks at Vega sent up this box of "Tropical" flavor packets, which he much prefers.

On the PPK forums, I heard folks talking about the Vega Recovery Protein powder. I really like this stuff! It's packed with protein (134 calories and 25 grams of protein per scoop), and has a nice chocolatey flavor. On days when I've worked really hard and feel like I need a real protein blast, I'll go straight to this stuff. It doesn't have all the nutritional extras that the "All-in-one" powder has, but it's got a lot more protein. Also, I like the flavor a bit more... probably because there isn't all that other nutrition in there, ha ha.

Vega stuff is definitely not cheap, but it's my top choice among all the protein products I've tried so far. I love the quality of ingredients, I love all the nutritional extras that they include in their products,  and I either genuinely enjoy or don't mind the flavor. But most importantly - I simply feel good about eating Vega products - from smoothies to bars, I feel nourished and all "tanked up" with goodness after a Vega snack. Huzzah!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thanksgiving Joy

Happy Thanksgiving!
my mom's pretty table decor (& her yummy cranberry sauce!)

My family had a really lovely Thanksgiving celebration this year at my parents' house. It was simple and easy and fun and low key. Ahhh. No stress, no complications... just lots of ease and comfort. I am so grateful for that! 

securely snugged into a bowl and ready to be transported across town

My family always does our family gatherings potluck-style. Everyone is in charge of bringing something (or a few things), and that way, no one person is overwhelmed and everyone gets to contribute something.

The first thing I had to make was the magical cheeseball that I have so recently fallen in love with. For extra holiday flare, I did the version where the goop is rolled in chopped pecans, thyme and sage. 

Everyone wants a piece of that cheeseball!

As predicted, El Senor Cheeseball was unanimously approved by all present at the gathering. I even got to use my adorable little cheese plate with ceramic mice on it. One of my finest purchases ever. This picture documents Mr. VE&T taking the inaugural bite of the cheeseball, and his mom in close pursuit!

Also, just peeking off the side of the picture, you can see the hummus and fresh veggies that my mom made for appetizer. My mom makes a mean batch of homemade hummus. It's one of her specialties, and this was a particularly yummy batch!

Instead of making regular old vegan stuffing, I decided to make a batch of the Stuffed Thanksgiving Burgers from the PPK. I love this recipe sooooo much! I just served them as cutlets - and had mine with vegan gravy and cranberry sauce. Mmm. I especially love the roasted hazelnuts and chewy dried cranberries in there. Happily, there were a few left over, and we are planning to have them for dinner tomorrow night. 

For the gravy, I made a batch of Julie Hasson's Savory Gravy (the recipe is in her books Vegan Diner and i). In the past, I've always just used a mix to make gravy (*hangs head in shame*), but I've heard so many good things about this gravy that I really wanted to try it. It was super easy, quick to make, and very delicious! The recipe makes 5 cups, and since I would be pretty much the only person eating the stuff, I made a half batch and have lots left for my leftovers feasts this week. 

Vegan Biscuits by my dad!!

This year, we had an atypical amount of participation from the fellas! My brother made the "non-vegan entree" (if you know what I mean), and Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats made a huge, beautiful batch of Chipotle Chili with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes (all by himself!*), and my dad decided to make biscuits! All on his own, he googled "vegan biscuits," found this fantastic recipe, did a trial run ahead of time to make sure they were good, and then made a beautiful batch of biscuits to go with our dinner. Oh wow! Such a luxurious treat to have someone make vegan biscuits for me!! 

*I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the chili. It turned out really perfectly. Now that Mr. VE&T and I both know that he can make a perfect batch of chili, perhaps he will start to cook more often? 

My dad & his glorious vegan biscuits
In case you were wondering where my goofball qualities come from, now you have your answer!

Pumpkin Pie from Voluptuous Vegan

I love love love the pumpkin pie from Voluptuous Vegan (it's also the same recipe posted on the PPK). It's easy, quick to throw together, and delicious. It's also soy-free, which is great in our family because we have a VIP who is really allergic to soy. 

I made this pie the day before Thanksgiving and it looked perfect then, but by the next day, the surface had cracked a little. I don't know why it does that. It doesn't really bother me though, because the flavor is so super.

Here's a baking question for you. I'm trying to minimize my use of palm oil, and that means trying to use less Earth Balance when I bake. I used refined coconut oil in this crust, but I had the problem that many hard bits of the coconut oil didn't ever integrate into the crust. When I was rolling it out, there were solid bits of coconut oil and i had to pick them all out, and repair the crust. And the resulting crust was tougher than I would have liked (still good, I'm just sayin'). Any tips? 

Apple-Pear-Quince Galette

I also made this beautiful and delicious galette. I've been making it for years and it is such a delicious and sophisticated dessert. So many harmonious flavors inside. I also noticed that I have never shared this recipe, so I am planning a separate post soon entirely in honor of this special dessert. Recipe coming soon! For this crust I fell back on soy-free Earth Balance and the crust was stunning and perfect. Mmm. 

Now that Thanksgiving has come and blessed us with its presence for another year, I am already gung-ho for the Christmas Season. In fact, I'm already almost done drawing up my annual Christmas Cookbooklette, selecting cookie recipes for next weekend's cookie swap party, and working on my Christmas card design. This doodle was one of my Christmas card ideas, but lost out to something cuter. I didn't want it to go to waste though, so I'm sharing it here! Speaking of the Christmas spirit, I'm going to have two fun giveaways this month, a VE&T gift guide, and lots of other fun posts... so keep your eyes peeled for more fun stuff. Huzzah!