As promised, part two of my holiday cookie tray series – it’s later than I had planned on posting it but hopefully you’ll have time to squeeze in one more cookie session before the big day. Between the last minute shopping, the gift wrapping marathons, and the last minute decorating, you’ll need a little baking distraction.
Hey Friends! Are you guys ready for the holidays? Yeah, me neither… I have yet to get around to putting up our Christmas tree, buying a fresh wreath from the local nursery, creating a fantastic Christmas playlist, and I have yet to do any holiday shopping for friends or family. I’m assuming you could guess by my lack of posting that I’ve been busy busy (owning a business during the holidays is hectic but I’m not complaining as all the orders coming in have been great) but I finally penciled in a free day yesterday and had a baking marathon.
You can scold me for not being a traditionalist but I wasn’t excited about holiday baking until I picked up my Bon Appetit December issue earlier this week (I’m not sponsored by them – I just really have a passion for the aesthetic of that magazine). I was so sick of seeing cookie roundups featuring the traditional molasses and sugar cookies; I can turn to grandma’s Betty Crocker cookbook for foolproof versions of those recipes so I want something new and exciting when looking to new sources. I wanted something that would challenge my baking ability, make me inspired, and keep me focused through the whole process. Finally, I came across Bon Appetit’s cookie round up and I was sold. Boozy sugar? check. Gooey triple chocolate brownie cookies? I’m in. Salted Honey bark? Yes, please! Fast forward 2 Fleetwood Mac albums and 3 baking sessions later and I have my cookie trays filled to the brim with new and delicious treats!
Sure, these aren’t the peppermint bark or gingerbread cookies we all grew up with but I prefer to embrace new adventures. Perhaps it’s because the only family recipe I know of is my grandma’s horribly awful jello recipe that I resent to make (let alone feed to people). Even if I did eat gelatin, the thought of tiny chunks of food speckled through cloudy jello makes my taste buds cringe. Instead of finding comfort in traditional recipes, I find comfort in the cookie tray concept as a whole. My mother always taught me to have a variety of cookies on the tray (with a high ratio of chocolate ones) and always add festive color by way of candy. I used lindt peppermint pieces for this tray but only because I couldn’t find any Franco mints in this darn town.
I’ll be splitting up my Saturday adventure into two posts and this first one has the recipe for the gooey, double chocolate brownie cookies. These little nuggets of rich chocolate gold have a hard outer shell with a gooey, brownie center. And to top it all off, I sprinkled them with homemade rum sugar (inspiration borrowed from Bon Appetit’s bourbon sugar).
When making this recipe, make sure to start on the sugar the night before as it must dry out overnight. Also, my other suggestion on this recipe is to make sure not to over mix the ingredients. I know our generation leans on the stand mixer for all of our baking miracles but skip it for this one recipe and whisk by hand. If the dough ends up over mixed then it will become tough and the end product’s final texture will be off.
Caroline and I took a short drive into the country yesterday in search of an apple orchard that would fulfill our fall fever. We knew the moment we were close because the vast open corn fields were upbruptly interrupted with what seemed like skyscraper-high blow up bounce houses and multi-colored tents popping up in the distance. As we approached the entrance, we realized we had no idea what we got ourselves into with police officers directing traffic and fields filled with minivans. Luckily, the apple orchard was large enough that we could find pockets of solitude to snap some photos of the gorgeous apple trees and our picking adventure. After we had our fill of the apples, we headed back to the entrance to pay and inquired about a ‘Pick Your Own Raspberry’ sign that was near the parking lot. The worker handed us a bucket and told us to head across the street if we were interested in berry picking. To our surprise, across the street was a whole different story; the sound of children squealing and the constant need to dodge groups of people disappeared. Not only was the berry field completely void of cars, but also of people in general. We were shocked to be the only ones out there picking thriving raspberries while hundreds of families pushed their way through the crowds for apple-flavored everything just yards away. It was a small oasis of solitude in an otherwise crazy tourist attraction and we were surprised to unexpectedly stumbled upon it. Cheers to the bright red underdog of the season and here are a few photos from our adventure:
[Photo of me on the last day of me being 24 years old - AKA earlier this week]
I’m currently on vacation in the most luxurious cabin on a small lake in Wisconsin. It’s Wyatt’s aunt and uncle’s cabin and can house anywhere between 12-15 people so we are feeling like we’re living in a mansion here by ourselves. It’s been a blast with a mix of hiking in the sunshine and reflecting / reading during the rain. With my 25th birthday being this week, I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about what getting older means to me and if I’m still as terrified of it as I was at 22. Yes, I’m horrified by the thought of having to go to the doctor every few months to keep my body from falling apart and of losing my incredible metabolism but, at the same time, I’m also excited about continuing to mature and figure out this crazy thing we call living.
I spent the long 8 hour car ride up here reflecting on how my life has changed since I first stepped into my 20s five years ago and would like to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way with you:
1. You are who you surround yourself with. This one was something that became so clear to me when I dropped my druggie high school friends for highly creative and motivational college buddies. Spending a Saturday night hosting a potluck and playing board games was so much more rewarding than playing video games and getting drunk in friends’ basements. I learned that there are people out there that do get as excited as me about trying a new vegetable and not just about their newest weed blend. Going from living with people who spend every night hosting “ragers” to living with my highly motivated musician boyfriend was also an eye opener. He spends every extra waking moment working on music which only motivated me to work on my passions as I see him dedicate his entire self to what he loves and wants to become.
2. You don’t have to like everyone. This one was hard for me – it felt like if I was going to be around someone then I really wanted to be their friend. I’ve come to realize that putting a lot of energy into trying to force a friendship is a lot of wasted time and it’s okay to find someone completely talented and work with them on a professional level without feeling the needs to go get drinks with them afterwards or on the weekends.
3. It’s not about where you are but what you do while being there. I was, like every young ‘adult’ getting ready to graduate from college, obsessed with moving to the coast. I was sure that I was meant to move to Portland or San Francisco after I received my degree and never come back to Indiana. However, when the time came to move – my mother talked me into visiting these places for a few days first to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. She, like all parents, was nervous about me moving to a new place without a job (market) when I had already been offered a full time job in Indiana. When I actually flew out there, I realized that San Fran was much too large for me and Portland…well Portland was amazing (ha). Despite Portland being an amazing place to visit, I spent a few days with Wyatt’s inviting friends which showed us a blast of a time by taking us to some great dive bars and brunch spots. I was totally in love with Portland but was a little bit taken aback by the idea of me in Portland. Wyatt’s friends had been living there for a few years now but were working as servers and in resteraunts. Back in Indiana, we had a full fledge career already starting in the industry (music industry) of our dreams. We decided to stay in Bloomington for a year to test it out and have been here since for 3 years. I’ve watched many of my friends lose interest in their passions as they are gobbled up by large city activities and I feel lucky knowing that I’m able to put hours into VV and Driftless since I don’t have a 2 hour commute a day or rent that costs 3/4 of my salary.
4. Naive can be good. It sounds silly but I’m so greatful that I dived head first into some big adventures without realizing what they would entail. For example, if I had any idea the learning curve and constant work that went into making a magazine then Driftless would have most likely never released an issue. The truth can be daunting so just going for that big dream and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.
5. You make your own opportunities. I often time have trouble sitting still and watching TV when I know I could be working on a blog post that may be the post that gets me noticed by that oh-so-famous blogger. Or I could be shooting a new article to be featured in a print issue of one of my favorite independent magazines. It took several years for VV to get off the ground but persistence with constantly photographing and recipe developing puts me one step closer to my dreams everyday. Little victories like being interviewed for Food & Wine, being nominated by Saveur Magazine, and getting motivational emails from some of my favorite bloggers are all just the small victories that help push me towards growing this little place and I know that these little victories didn’t happen because of luck – I worked my ass off for them! This also means that hopefully more opportunities will come as I only continue to develop my skills more.
These are a handful of big picture maturaties that I’ve had to discover for myself over the last few years. Although I’ve grown immensely since turning 20, I am pretty excited to see what else I learn over the last 5 years of my twenties. I’m sure life has some pretty insightful things planned for the next 5 years but I’d really love to work on growing the following:
1. Learn to lose control. I really struggle with needing to be in control (of my daily routine, my blog, my body, my attitude) at all times and get really upset when things are out of my control (even little things like the weather not going as I hoped really bums me out).
2. Learn balance. Right now I am ALL in. I go from work to magazine to blog to bed. It’s great and I stay constantly engaged but it sure would be great for me to be able to…you know…watch some TV or something without my mind wondering to my next to-do list.
Now, as I mentioned, it’s my birthday (week) so let’s eat cake!!
Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake
adapted from Love & Lemons
- 2 cups grated carrots
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1 cup non-dairy plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces vegan cream cheese
- 8 ounces earth balance (or regular butter if you aren’t looking to make vegan)
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ~1 Tablespoon non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (or seeds from a a vanilla bean)
- 1/2 cup shopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray or line two 8 inch round cake pans. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt in one bowl. Whisk together the yogurt, sugar, apple sauce, vanilla, and coconut oil in another. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones until everything is combined and then fold in the grated carrots. Divide the dough between your two prepared pans and stick in the oven for 30 minutes (or until a toothpick is inserted into the center and comes out clean).
Remove from oven and let cool completely.
To make the frosting: Beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add more milk if it ends up stiff. Divide the frosting into 3 parts and use 1 as the center layer, one on the sides, and the remaining part for the top. Top with crusted pistachios and enjoy!
*A few notes:
- I made this cake vegan because it was my birthday and it was what I wanted. Feel free to swap out the non-dairy items with organic dairy items if you’d prefer to.
- Also, feel free to add in an extra 1/2 cup shopped pistachios into the batter (throw them in the same time you put in the grated carrots) if you’d like the added texture in your cake. I stuck with keeping mine on the outside but that is just my personal preference.
Last July, I hopped on a plane and met one of my best friends, Ella, for an adventurous long weekend road trip up the Pacific coast. She had already spent the last 3 months exploring the US in her little car and I was scheduled to meet up with her for the very last leg of her trip. I flew into San Francisco where I immediately made her take me to Tartine Bakery to pick up two loaves of bread (which I strategically ordered 3 days prior, duh) and an array of baked goods that we couldn’t resists while in the shop. We wondered around the city streets stuffing our faces with fistfuls of pillowy carbs until we stumbled upon the Bi-Rite Market.
It only seemed appropriate that we top this portable feast off with some spreads so we headed inside the market. After picking up 3 jars of specialty jams, some fresh blueberries, and a slab of Humboldt fog cheese to top our bread with, we decided we should just grab a few more items to enjoy on the road for the next 3 days. Fast forward 10 minutes later and we were standing outside the market with 4 bags full of $150 worth of groceries. Although we both had a little bit of sticker shock when we first saw it all rung up, we feasted that week and it was the fanciest camp food I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling with.
Although the bread was legendary, the cheese was so creamy you could eat it by the spoonful, and the blackberries were as fun to pick off the wild bushes as they were to eat, the flavor I remember the most was from our gorgeous dried apricots we purchased from Bi-Rite. It was the first time I’ve ever had an apricot that I could recall (fresh or dried) and the flavor stuck with me. Everytime I bite into one, it reminds me of smelling the salty seashores, gawking at endless redwoods, laughing at wrong turns, and feeling slightly whoozy from the winding roads. And those small reminders are now why I keep dried apricots around for everyday pick-me-ups.
As most of you probably have heard from all the reviews online or saw on my instagram, my good blogger friend Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella just released her first cookbook, The Homemade Flour Cookbook, this month. I’m a total DIYer in the kitchen (anything from making my own vegetable broth to flavored mustards to Boozy BBQ sauce) so I was so excited to hear she was covering the topic of making her own flour. It seems like such a no brainer that things like Garbanzo bean flour comes from dried chickpeas, but to learn that it’s insanely simple to whip up your own version instead of spending $8+ on a small bag is just so liberating! I started out simple with just making this oat flour but can’t wait to dig into the more unique flours like lentil and pistachio flour.
These cookies are a slight adaptation of the Cranberry Oat Cookies she has in her cookbook. I had planned to make them word for word but my ability to follow a recipe is lacking and I felt inspired by the other add-in ingredients I had laying around. I’m doubting Erin could be too upset by the adjustments since she herself admits to always needing to turn a recipe into its own in the intro of The Homemade Flour Cookbook.
I’d recommend this book for anyone trying to get extra creative in their kitchen or looking to become as self-sufficient as possible. The book is split up into types of flours and the instructions on how to mill each grain / bean / seed is incredibly informative and helpful. Plus, on top of all that, she includes several recipes for each type of flour, so you have endless inspiration from cover to cover.
I’m pretty sure I need to bookmark this post as a reminder to the annoyed and freezing January version of myself. This post needs to be a reminder that no matter how hard it is cut an onion while you can’t feel your fingers, its even harder to bake in a 90 degree kitchen without passing out of heat exhaustion. It is one thing to use your oven as a heater in the winter but how do you cool the kitchen down in the summer? The secret is most certainly in avoiding turning that oven back on.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but our kitchen was a add-on from the original 1920′s ranch we live in so it’s a little bit of a awkward shack addition in the back of the home. All weird bugs and lack of natural light aside, the workspace wouldn’t be so bad if the builders had managed to hook it up to the central air system. Nope – they did not. This means that its absolutely frigid in the winter and beyond humid / muggy in the summer. Hell, the kitchen might as well be outside so I could at least get some nice natural light out of the thing.
Let’s start the weekend with a cup of strong black coffee and a sugary biscuit, shall we? The small pauses of silence around here have been a sign that I’ve been completely over-extending myself lately dipping into large projects outside of VV… whether that be creating a magazine or guest posting or working on secret assignments that I can’t reveal to you (just yet) – there has been a lot going on behind the scenes over here! Thus, can we please just take this Saturday morning off, sit around the kitchen table marveling in leisure conversation, strong drip coffee, and warm baked goods? Please? We can?! Thank you – this is exactly what I needed.
After we enjoy this lazy morning around the table, I’m going to take a weekend vacation from my computer and go hiking, do some quiet baking, and probably watch some overly angsty 90′s movies.
Enough about me – what are you doing this weekend? If you are looking for some weekend entertainment, why not consider pre-ordering a copy of Driftless Magazine? Driftless is the new magazine that I’ve been promoting the sh*t out of while I try to get you all obsessed with how amazing it really is! The digital version is being released TOMORROW, June 1st so it’ll be in your inbox in time to wind-down with it before having to get back into the work week. (sorry – last time I’ll bug you about it for awhile – I’m just too excited about the magazine not to have it on the mind all the time!)
Sometimes you wake up and you realize you are years older than you imagine yourself as. That is what happened to me last weekend when Wyatt’s little brother graduated from college. The exact same college I had graduated from several years back. The memories of him being a freshman and showing him the ropes around campus are so fresh. I’ve known him for four years but I always envision him as that young and naive freshman; I guess that means I always envision myself as that outgoing, a little too judgmental and way too cocky junior. That was a good year – it was the year I lived with two wild friends and it was the year we hosted all sorts of parties with local bands in our basement and it was the year I met Wyatt. It was the year that I got his brother a little too drunk when we went to see Ty Segall and Wyatt wouldn’t talk to me for days. It was the year I had come back from living in Nashville and it was the year I finally truly and honestly felt comfortable in my skin. It was the year they banned 4Loko (thank goodness) and it was the year I got hired at my current job. It was the year I always look back on and can picture so clearly when thinking about college.
I’m pretty obsessed with the concept of adding unusual flavors to whipped cream and incorporating it into everything I eat. Floral whip, (goat) cheesy whip, nutty whip – you name it and I’ve probably toyed with the idea of incorporating it into a recipe. Thus, here we are with a popsicle recipe mostly made out of whipped goat cheese. The results are light and refreshing (just how you want it to be on a hot summer afternoon) and surprisingly ‘adult’ with the mature flavors of goat cheese and booooooze. I made these popsicles for my good foodie friend, Renee from Will Frolic For Food, so hop on over to her blog now to check out the recipe.
Also, in case you missed it, Renee was kind enough to share an amazing popsicle recipe here on VV earlier this week that combined the wonderful world of tart rhubarb and sweet coconut milk – click here to check it out!
Also, while we are at it, here is an array of other amazing popsicle recipes that you need to bookmark for all your summer hangouts in the sun:
+ Berry season is coming and there is no better way to use your bounty than with these Smashed Berry-Lime-Coconut pops.
+ If you’ve been following VV for awhile then you already know about these but my Raw Vegan Fudgiscles are one of the most visited recipes on the site!
+ I’ve never seen roasted berries look as appetizing as they do in these Roasted Strawberry, Coconut, & Lime Icy Pops.
Now – go make some popsicles and spend this weekend in the sun!
We are mixing it up on VV today with a wonderful guest post from Will Frolic For Food’s creator Renee. I am very excited to introduce Renee to all of you Vegetarian ‘Ventures follows because she is a mastermind in the kitchen! We met over Coconut Dulce De Leche (if you haven’t checked out her recipe for that yet then DO IT. DO IT NOW!) and have been foodie pals every since. This particular guest post is on popsicles and I’m excited to announce that there will be a VV one on Will Frolic For Food later this week so stay tuned!
Hey there! Renee here from Will Frolic for Food. Shelly and I have been stoked about doing this popsicle collab for months, but are just now getting around to it! Between working, planning a wedding, chocolate-making, and my many other projects time passes so quickly. I can hardly keep up!
Rhubarb for some reason always reminds me of celery. Probably because they look like sisters with the same nose but totally different personalities. Thus totally avoiding using it until this season. The stalks are these long legged pink-green beauties, ragged at the end from where the poisonous leaves and inedible roots we’re split off. It has the same stringy, crunchy consistency as celery when I bite into it with my knife. But it practically melts in heat, especially with a pinch of sugar and a dash of water to help it along.
So why rhubarb? Well, I like to make my kitchen times an adventure. I found a dairy free version of rhubarb curd over at Dolly & Oatmeal (check out how freakin’ gorgeous her rhubarb curd meringue tarts are! ). I did a blood orange curd this past Winter that went into my “keep forever lest be sad always” recipe box. I’m now a new-old hand at curd — why not try out a rhubarb one? I mean, when you curdify fruit it’s pretty hard to go wrong, right?
Every year our local radio station puts on an all day music event in the park. To me, it always marks that first day of true spring in Bloomington. It is often times the first Saturday that its warm enough to grill out and enjoy a picnic in the park while listening to some wonderful local and national music. It also usually lines up with being the first Saturday that the outdoor farmer’s market is in full swing.
This year’s event was this past Saturday and the spring fever did not disappoint. I started the day with a walk to the farmer’s market and enjoyed smelling all the budding trees along the way. The sun was out and we welcomed temperatures above anything we’ve felt in 6+ months. I spent the afternoon planting wildflowers and playing around in the kitchen with the sun streaming in (oh what a difference it makes!).
We grilled out for dinner and I whipped up a cake for our guests. Ha, I know – a cake for a grill out? You can tell I’m rusty since a well disciplined griller would have found something that could be made over the hot coals. Unfortunately, it’s still a little early for berries and our citrus bounty has long since disappeared so cake it was! Delicious, moist, chocolatey cake – I must add!
Well, we are finally past the ‘polar vortex’ phase of the year and have officially started moving into spring (which means constant thunderstorms and luscious greenery popping up everything for us Midwesterns). What better way to welcome spring than with an earthy ice cream flavored with rosemary, honey, and chunks of walnuts? My ice cream maker has been accumulating dust since I got it for Christmas and it’s about time we wore this puppy in.
This recipe is from Scoop Adventure, a new ice cream book by Lindsay Clendaniel that takes you around the country to all the best ice cream parlors. I was so excited to open up this book and find my own hometown ice cream parlor, Hartzell’s, featured for the state of Indiana. This rosemary walnut ice cream isn’t the Hartzell recipe and I’m not even going to tell you what it is, so your just gonna have to pick up this book for yourself. Heck, I bet your town is in there..or maybe a town you grew up in or went to on vacation…I bet some ice cream shop you love is featured and you won’t even know until you pick up this 192 pager.
Tell me you’ve made homemade ice cream before, right? Good. So then you know what I’m talking about when I say that homemade ice cream has the most wonderful fresh and creamy texture that you’ll never find in a carton of Kroger brand cookies and cream. It’s rich while tasting light and every bite is bursting with the flavors of your choosing.
The honey I used in this recipe was a jar we picked up in Marco Island during our little adventure earlier this spring. It’s saw palmetto honey, which has a very distinct flavor profile to it. The distinct flavor reminds me of relaxing on a white sand beach in the everglades. That means I taste a little bit of adventure with every spoonful.
I’d like to think I live in a pretty progressive town for it being smack-dab in the middle of cornfields (also known as the ‘meat-and-potato region’). Bloomington, Indiana is home to around only 40,000 people (80,000 if you count the students from the university) yet we have 4 co-op grocery stores, an entire street dedicated to ethnic restaruants, a vegan diner, numerous international grocery spots, a bike trail that runs the length of the city, and bakery dedicated to only serving vegan goodies.
I bring this up because our local vegan bakery specialized in baked (or cake? I’d like to think they are the same thing but my boyfriend said this is 100% false) donuts. Theres always an array ranging from traditional toffee to more unique lavender-lemon. My usual go-to (after the huge cinnamon rolls and buckeyes) is always their maple bacon donut. They are wonderfully sweet with a hint of smoke from the coconut bacon.
As mentioned in my previous post, we’ve been in Florida for the last week as an attempt to relieve ourselves from the negative temperatures that the Midwest can’t seem to shake. The week has been filled with lazy mornings at the beach, afternoons by the pool, and early evenings were spent exploring the Everglades.
More on our adventures later this week after I finish editing all the photos I managed to snap. As for now, I tried to spend the whole week relaxing but couldn’t resist the urge to document these popsicles to share with all of you. I received both an ice cream maker and popsicle molds for Christmas and although I’ve played around with a few recipes, the Midwest ground has been covered in snow since December and our home has maybe seen the sun half a dozen times since the new year. Thus, ice cream cravings have been at a standstill (well, at least until last week when we headed to the coast).
Last year I waited until the very last minute to do a Valentine’s day post so I figured we’d just get this out of the way this year. Yup, it’s February so it’s totally acceptable to start talking in the rhythm of a haiku and dreaming in red and pink.
I’m starting to feel like this sweets thing is never going to end. There was the month long baking marathon of festive cookies that leads up to Christmas. And then my boyfriend and best friend both had birthdays in January (which means 2 cakes each. Hey, it’s the one month out of the year I have an excuse to make a cake so I tend to go a little overboard). And now it’s february which is yet another excuse to eat chocolate covered everything and pink tinted sugar. So, I guess what I am trying to say, is that after this Valentine’s Day post I’m going to cool it on the sweets. No, I’m not doing it for you – I know you enjoy every sugar laden treat I post on here. I’m doing it for myself because you can’t feel in control of your health when you are on a constant sugar high. Ya know?
I’m jumping all over the place with this intro but there is so much to cover in such a short amount of time (+an over-share of photos = an unnecessarly long post so stay with me!).
There was so much inspiration from all over for this recipe. First off, I’ve been dying to make Linda’s Blood Orange Curd that she posted on her site The Tart Tart since the blood oranges finally started pouring into the Midwest. I halved the recipe and manipulated it a little bit to fit with the amount of egg yokes leftover from the meringue. All I can say is…Damn, I am SO bummed I halved that recipe. It was the perfect amount to fill the meringue bites but I really wish there was leftovers to lather all over pancakes or toast or oatmeal or whatever else would be within reach. This was my first try at curd (and my first experience tasting it homemade) and I’m completely hooked. It’s a wonder I’ve gone all these years without it. Move over jam – citrus curd is my new #1.
Currently Lusting is a bi-weekly series which features blogs that VV finds particularly inspiring / creative / beautiful or probably all three. Although we’d like to pretend that all ideas spring from these wonderful brains of ours, that is just simply not the truth. We pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? One of the biggest steps is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.
Pink Patisserie is one of those blogs that I’ll have pinned 4 of her photos and be struck by how delicious a recipe looks before even realizing where it came from. Then I’ll be going through my blogfeed later on, see those photo and be like ‘ah ha! Of course this was the work of Maria!’. This has happened at least a half a dozen times. I can usually pin point a photo from most of my favorite blogs because they stick to a similar aesthetic… but not Pink Patisserie. Maria is constantly surprising me with her ever growing photography talent and each photo I stumble upon seems to only be more gorgeous than the last. Just when I think she’s mastered it, she creates a new post with even more inspiring photos and recipes. And that is what keeps me always coming back to Pink Patisserie.
MERRY CHRISTMAS [EVE] (or, to all of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, HAPPY TUESDAY!). I love Christmas eve just as much as I love Christmas day. This is because, growing up, my parent’s were divorced so we always had Christmas with my Father ‘s family on the 24th and then had ANOTHER Christmas with my mother’s family on the 25th. I never could relate to those kids who were so excited to get to open ONE present on Christmas Eve to hold them over – I always received DOZENS of gifts on Christmas eve followed up lots more gifts on Christmas day. As I’ve aged, I’ve toned down a little (just a little!) on my excitement for a double dose of gifts but have learned to find joy in so many other wonderful aspects of having two Christmases in a row. Double the santa cookies. Double the Christmas movies. Double the Yule log playing in the background on your tv (speaking of that, I’ll be playing Lil Bub’s yule log video this year – if my family doesn’t think thats too weird).
But, to be completely honest, this biscotti has nothing to do with Christmas and I really just chatted about Christmas Eve because I’m just so darn excited its finally here. This biscotti is actually about having 11 days off of work in a row – which is the longest vacation time I’ve had in 2013. It’s about finally having lazy mornings after lazy mornings of sipping coffee in bed and enjoying a favorite magazine while munching some biscotti. It’s all about mastering the technique of getting the biscotti soggy enough in your coffee that it doesn’t crumble all over your sheets but firm enough that it’s still crunchy when take that first bite. But don’t worry, it’s okay if it takes you a few days to master this technique – we’ve still got loads more days off ahead of us!
Yikes, another sweets recipe? The holiday season has once again taken over and I can’t seem to get my mind to focus on anything else. I feel a little guilty about how sugar-laden VV has been over the past month (I’m not exaggerating. don’t believe me? Look here. and here. and even here). I feel like I’m setting a bad example after I went on that long rant last week to you guys about how switching to a vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy choice. So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that for every sweets recipe I post on here, there are 10 salads being eaten in the days between which are not getting photographed / recorded. And that being a vegetarian is not an excuse to skip dinner because there is meat in it and jump right into dessert. But… do you know what is an excuse for that? The holidays! And they are here – so why don’t we just indulge for a little longer? Come on – what do you say? Well stuff our faces with fresh lentil soup and kale smoothies come the New Year – I promise!
My initial thought when deciding to make this syrup was that I could use dates as the sweetener and do a little bit of healthy twist on it. But I also wanted to make this syrup for far-away friends and I was worried about the dates not being able to travel halfway across the country without spoiling, ya know? What an awful greeting to an old friend – ‘Hey! Here is a package of spoiled baked goods for you! Enjoy! Hope ya don’t get too sick’. It just didn’t seem worth the risk. So, instead, I stuck to the good ‘ole fashion recipe that we’ve been making every year around this time. Silky and sweet – so you only need a few teaspoons. Perfect in your hot cocoa or morning cup of coffee. A great addition to a festive cocktail or to drizzle over baked goods. When deciding that I wanted to make some festive care packages for old friends, I couldn’t think of a more versatile gift.
In addition to this syrup, I’m including some homemade vanilla extract (that has been aging for 5 months now), my Sweet & Salty Curry Molasses Popcorn, and Baker Royale’s Cookies & Cream Bark (which was really just an excuse to buy another package of Newman-Os) in the goodies I’m sending to friends.
Next up – family packages! What are you DIY gifting this year? I need some more inspiration!
***REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter to win the book bundle I am giving away! Entries will be accepted until next Sunday so hop on over here and sign up!***
To speak the obvious, the holidays are upon us! We’ve got Thanksgiving and the start of Hannakuh this week. And Christmas is exactly a month from today. Are you ready? Yeah, me neither. So even though I have not got around to getting gifts and roasting a giant tofurkey, at least I won’t come empty handed because I’ve got these caramels!
These little candies are the perfect accompaniment for all your holiday gatherings. Going to a Thanksgiving where the host has already agreed to make EVERYTHING? Bring these instead of (or along with) that bottle of wine – it’ll be more personal and they are so perfectly petite that you don’t have to feel guilty about munching a few down before the big feast.
Or these would be wonderful to have on the table during a winter gift wrapping party (am I the only one who has those? It’s really the best excuse to make mulled wine and listen to Christmas records with friends). Or to bring to that ugly sweater party. Or really just to have out on the table all December long while you prep for the holidays.
(Although I wish this was my own feast that I was muchin’ down on, it is not. As a change of pace on VV, I’ve borrowed most of the photos in this post so please click on the images to check out more beautiful photos from the original authors)
I’m a total planner. Anytime my boyfriend mentions he’d like to go on a trip somewhere, I’ll have a full day by day itinerary wrote up and emailed to him by the following evening. He usually has forgot he even mentioned anything by the time he receives the email but I know he has to smirk a little in that moment he opens it to find days (usually by the hour) planned out with restaurants, museums, sights, road stops, forests, and campsites. At least, I know I smirk a little when I re-read those emails. I don’t realize I’m doing it but I’m being exactly like my father in those moments. He would take us all (my brother, my three cousins who lived with us, and my step-mother) on a two week vacation every August when I was growing up. For the months leading up to it, he would pull out the atlas after dinner and compare tourist books (this was before the internet was a real big thing) to what was along the route. I remember how playful he always was in those planning moments and he’d tease me with comments like ‘should we go gambling in Vegas or take that 7 mile hike all uphill to see the rock that resembles a monkey head?’ (as if either of those things were appealing to a 10 year old).
Most of these trips I plan are just ideas – tucked away in email folders – never to actually be carried out. Sometimes I wonder if I have more fun planning adventures then actually taking them. There is just something comforting about these plans being there – comforting in the sense that if we did ever decide to sneak away to the Smoky Mountains or Lake Powell or Montreal at the last second, we wouldn’t miss a thing because I’ve got an itinerary for that!
Anyhow, I bring this story up because I planned out Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is sort of like a trip – you spend months planning and prepping only to have it carried out in one big meal. The funny thing is I’m not even hosting Thanksgiving this year. We always have Thanksgiving at my parent’s house up north and all I do is pick out a few recipes to make the day of and demand a Tofurky. However, even though I’m not hosting Thanksgiving, I still made a Thanksgiving menu. You know, just in case I ever feel like throwing a Thanksgiving dinner on a non-Thanksgiving holiday or something? Okay, that sounded crazy. I just mean that I did it because I enjoy planning. Planning can be a hobby, right?
So, to get to the point, if you are looking to host a Vegetarian Thanksgiving this year or just still need a few ideas on some sides, here is how I envision the perfect Vegetarian Thanksgiving:
Are you guys ready to talk about Thanksgiving? Excellent because it’s been on my mind a whole bunch lately and I am wearing my excitement on my sleeve. Holidays weren’t something I truly appreciated until I moved away and spent months upon months away from my family (it also helps that, in the more recent years, I’ve become obsessed with food as well). These days, it seems like I get more and more excited about the holidays sooner and sooner. Hell, I was ready to start talking about stuffing at the end of September!
I know, I know. Every food blog out there right now has gorgeous pictures up of them apple picking. But what’s one more?
Apple picking is a sign that the air has become crisp and the days shorter. We usually go apple picking at the same place every year but found this new gem of a farm this fall. It’s huge with windy isles filled with dozens and dozens of apple flavors. We adventured right around dusk while the lighting was magical and the the farm was void of families.
Think caramel is the only sweet topping you can salt? Think again. Imagine this salted molasses as the darker-spicier-brunette sister to the blondie we know as salted caramel. It also has that addicting sweet / salty flavor profile but with a bit of a richer flavor. I’m really not sure why caramel gets all the attention and why we don’t salt more sweet syrups. Why not salted honey? salted molasses? salted date syrup? Salted agave nectar? Based on how this pie tasted…I think I’m on to something here.
Besides the salted molasses, the other secret ingredient that really sets this pie apart is the use of vanilla beans. Vanilla extract is great when you want to infuse your baked goods but there is nothing better than speckles of fresh vanilla seeds. I stuck them in both the custard filling and in the molasses drizzle. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry vanilla beans (I know many don’t – shame on them!) then I highly suggest hopping over to J. R. Watkin’s site and picking up some of theirs. They were kind enough to send me some samples a few weeks back and I was legitimately blown away. I’m the kind of person who usually buys the beans in bulk and these beans put all of those to shame. These beans were some of the freshest I’ve ever baked with (and I, weirdly enough, have a lot of experience baking with vanilla beans. Check out here and here and here and here and here and here for written proof of it).
Today is Sunday, September 29th. Today is a very very special day. Or should I say tonight? Yes, tonight is a very very very special night. Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad. It is when three (four?!) years of pain-stakingly frustrating tension is finally resolved (or at least we hope it will be). There is only one problem: we don’t have cable. How did we watch all the other 61 episodes then, you ask? Well you can stream them on the network’s website the followig day after an episode has aired. Which I am usually totally fine with. But this is the season finale of the whole series. And I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to go into work tomorrow and have to keep my ears shut the whole day. Or spend the next 24 hours avoiding my newsfeeds on facebook and twitter. I want to experience it along with the rest of America.
So, how will I do this, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. But I sure as hell want to be prepared with baked goods when I figure it out. I’m thinking…bribing frineds with these muffins? Or the bartender to turn it to AMC with these little handheld cakes. Or maybe even going over to our new neighbors house and using these muffins as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ peace treaty right when the show is starting (that way I can peep in the door and see if they are watching it. ‘OH! You guys are watching Breaking Bad?! We were just about to put it on. Maybe we should all watch it together. I also have some local cider and whiskey I can bring over, if you’d like….’). You know, those kinds of things.
Oh no. This post was supposed to be a distraction from thinking about Breaking Bad. Okay, what were we talking about before I so rudely changed the subject to a drug-ring-themed-pop-culture-television-drama? Oh yeah, muffins. And not just any muffins – muffins exploding with nutritional benefits like dates (fiber, iron, calcium), bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C), nutmeg (iron, magnesium, calcium), and carrots (vitamin A). These are nutritional enough for breakfast but satisfying enough for dessert. And even scrumptious enough to bribe your friends with.
This past week has been wonderful. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I’ve been spoiled silly by so many wonderful people. Packages in the mail, trips to the city, visits from my mother, late night dinners. All this positive attention reminded me that I can also spoil myself a little -I decided I was entitled to as much sangria and shortbread as I please during this week. I whipped up a big batch of sangria and peach shortbread last Sunday and spent the week picking away at it. Heck, I even ran out of shortbread by Wednesday and whipped up another batch; this time I whipped up these fig shortbread bars.
Sometimes you are kind of nervous about getting older and the only cure is large amounts of butter and sparkling wine. Oh and having amazing people in your life.