Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day Pancakes & Cookies!

Happy Valentine's Day to you! 

 this morning's special breakfast! 

This year Valentine's Day lands on a Tuesday... which means I'll be busy teaching two back-to-back yoga classes tonight. But we didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to do something fun and special together... so of course we decided to eat pancakes! Special breakfast is pretty much my favorite way to celebrate almost any occasion, so I don't actually mind missing out on a dinner date. We've been looking forward to our Valentine pancakes for a while now, actually.

kitty love!

My favorite pancake recipe is the Puffy Pillow Pancakes from Isa Does It (or online here). They always turn out perfectly and puffy, just like the name promises. I like them plain, but I also love them with with bananas and walnuts added in. That's what we went for today... except, you can see from my bottom pancake and extra banana that I forgot to add the bananas to the first few pancakes. Ooops. (the truth is, I stepped in cat barf and got distracted. thanks, Yummers!) No worries, even the ones without bananas were perfectly delicious. We enjoyed our pancakes with coffee and fresh OJ (squeezed from oranges from our orange tree!). I put out lots of toppings - vegan butter, two kinds of peanut butter (his and hers - organic trader joes for me, Skippy for him), two kinds of syrup (natural maple syrup for me, artificial syrup for him), apricot jam, and applesauce. Yum. Pretty much the best way to start a day!

Stevie says Hi!

fancy cookies!

Like I said, I'll be teaching two evening classes tonight - and Valentine's Day isn't always a great turn out for evening classes. So I promised my students that I would bring some treats for them - and that the treats would definitely involve chocolate! That's just straight up bribery, and I'm not afraid to admit to it. Ha ha. I made a double batch of the Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Aquafaba Cookbook. This is by far my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe! I usually add in a few extra tablespoons of coconut flour, to get the batter to the consistency that I like. Wow, they are so perfect and soft and chewy and great. I also got a cookie scooper for Christmas, which makes me feel very fancy, and now I can easily make cookies that are uniform in size. The nerd in me is very pleased about this. 

Snoopy has a Valentine for you! 

After baking the cookies, I tempered a few of the remaining chocolate chips and used the melted chocolate as "glue" to attach the fancy vegan chocolate hearts to each cookie. One way to guarantee a huge class is to only bring 10 cookies. If you only bring 10 cookies, it is for sure that 15 people will show up. On the other hand, if you make 20 cookies, probably only 4 people will show up. And yet, you must play it safe. So, with any luck, we will have some left over cookies ourselves after dinner tonight! 

Dottie wants to shake your hand! 

gf cookies!

I also always like to have a gluten-free offering in case some of my students are gluten free. I actually made these first, so that I wouldn't contaminate any of my cooking utensils or surfaces with gluten. As you can see, my original "brilliant" idea was the bake the fancy vegan hearts right on top of the cookies, but that clearly didn't work out as planned. Ha ha. Sorry, gf students! Oh well, at least they still taste fantastic. And, I'm also glad this mishap occurred with my smaller half-batch of gf cookies, rather than with my big double batch of regular cookies. 

By the way, have you tried baking with this new Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour from Bob's Red Mill? I'd read good things about it online and I finally found it at our natural foods store. It really works so well in baked goods. I've used it so far for cookies and bars, and have had great success with it. If you don't do much gf baking, this would be the way to go, because you don't need to have separate bags of white rice flour, sorghum flour, xantham gum, tapioca starch, etc in your cupboard. Also, it doesn't have chickpea flour in it, which means it doesn't taste beany - a much appreciate improvement, especially for sweet baked goods! 

I hope you have a good day today - with some love from pets, pals, family, and yourself... and hopefully a little chocolate or a pancake too. 

Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats out delivering Valentines

**Giveaway Winner**

Here's a special Valentine for one of you...
Congratulations to comment #16: Affectioknit!
You won my giveaway for a copy of the Oh She Glows Everyday Cookbook
I'll send you an email 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Product Review: BFree Gluten-Free Breads

The world of vegan gluten-free bread options has really come a long way. Recently the folks at BFree reached out to me and asked if I'd like to try some of their breads. I'm not gluten-free personally, but a lot of the people I love are, so I like to know what's out there in the world -- so that we can "break bread" together. I always really appreciate it when people make a special effort to accommodate my vegan diet, and so I like to do the same for my gf peeps.

Well, imagine my delight and surprise when I received a massive box full of so many goodies and loaves of bread and buns and rolls and bagels and wraps -- it was a literal bread box! 

gluten-free goodies for your GF BF!
for your gluten-freebie bestie! 

avo toast, a timeless classic!

I gotta say, as someone with no gluten issues at all, I am sometimes a bit wary of gluten-free goods. But I really like BFree bread -- it comes in two varieties: Soft White Sandwich Loaf and Brown Seeded Sandwich Loaf. My loaves flew out of the bag in a hurry... for sandwiches, avocado toast, toast with jam, and various other quick and tasty snacks. The texture, as you can see, is airy and also a bit dense, and not too far toward either. The Soft White Loaf has a slightly more dense texture and, as you would expect, a more neutral flavor. In the Brown Seeded Loaf, there are sunflower seeds and oats in the bread and more "whole wheaty" flavor. They are both great! 

Two bags of GF Bagels!

Multiseed and Plain Bagels

The two bagel varieties are Plain and Multiseed - the texture is dense - like a proper bagel. I toasted my bagels and had them with jam, Kite Hill cream cheese, or peanut butter... and enjoyed them all. I liked the plain ones better with jam and the seeded ones better with the more savory toppings. I also found that all of these BFree goods froze well and were easy to defrost and pop in the toaster oven any time I wanted one. In fact, I still have a few stashed in my freezer!

who needs champagne when you and your glutenfreebie pals can chink your bagels instead of your champagne flutes? Cheers! 

Gluten-Free Stone Baked Pita Breads!!

look at that! 

I was really impressed with these gf pita breads. They had a perfect baked browning on the edges on the exterior, along with a soft interior. They held up well, even stuffed full with hummus and tomatoes and veggies, but they also have a lovely taste. I like their oblong pita shape - for whatever reason pitas in the U.S. tend to be round - and I always like it when I can find oblong pita. I love how you can make a nice deep pocket of deliciousness in there! These really knocked my socks off. I shared a lot of my BFree treats with one of my GF besties and she was also super delighted to have some gluten-free pita breads. It had been quite a while since she had gotten to eat a pita bread! 

way better than a pity party! 

You can see the whole-grainy texture and color of the inside of the Brown Seeded Hot Dog Buns (I kinda man-handled this one with my knife, so it's a little beleaguered!) - and you can also see the flax seeds on the outside of the buns. I'll confess that I liked these so much that I ate a couple of them as rolls with my lunch! It says on the bag that they are "super soft," and they really are! Such a nice flavor and texture in these rolls! I didn't get a picture of the inside of the white rolls before I "accidentally" ate all them, but they are just as lovely, with a more traditional hot dog bun flavor.

 I enjoyed my GF hot dog bun with a glutenous Tofurkey bratwurst sausage! This was such a fun and delicious lunch - I slathered on a generous dollop of Dijon mustard, a big pile of sauerkraut, and my hot dog. So filling and satisfying - and the bun was just great - it stayed soft and chewy without getting soggy or mealy at all. Honestly, these products really changed my mind about gluten-free breads, they are leaps and bounds better than any gf bread I had tried previously. It's not like I'm an expert, but still. These breads really are good.

Soft White Roll, toasted with vegan butter

Soft Brown Seeded Roll with broccoli tahini soup and dukkah (from Persepolis)

I really love both flavors of these rolls! They are light and just the right balance of fluffy and chewy. You can see from my two pictures that the two flavors of rolls are quite different -- the white rolls have a nice "french bread" texture - not super airy, and also not dense. The brown seeded rolls have a seeds throughout and slightly more robust flavor. I enjoyed my rolls in simple ways -- just toasted with a little homemade vegan butter... which is kind of the true test. I also enjoyed some as "mini sandwiches," which was also great. They would make good mini slider buns! 

Quinoa and Chia Seed Wrap 
filled with Portabello Pepper Steak (from Appetite for Reduction)

Bfree also makes two kinds of wraps/tortillas. I was happy with the flexibility and flavor of the wraps. Waaaay back in the day, I tried a few gf tortillas that just cracked in half as soon as you tried to bend them. That was no good at all. I warmed my wraps lightly in the toaster oven, just to take the chill off, and they were fantastic : tasty, substantial but not overwhelming, and durable. They held up great, even when stuffed full of goodies. 

...aaaand that's a wrap! 

I can definitely recommend these products -- especially to any of you who are gluten-free, or the next time you have a gf friend visiting or coming over for dinner! 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Book Review & Giveaway: "Oh She Glows Everyday"

I was late in the game to appreciate the amazing recipes over at OhSheGlows.com, in fact, I didn't discover Angela Liddon's recipes until I received a copy of her first cookbook The Oh She Glows Cookbook to review for this blog. Within just a few recipes, I was smitten. Over the years I have made and loved and shared so many recipes from The OSG Cookbook and from her blog. I even have the OSG app* and I really love it. So, I was super stoked to have the opportunity to review her second book: Oh She Glows Every Day ! I made lots of goodies from this beautiful book...

*By the way, if you like cooking from apps, I really like the OSG app. It's got lots of recipes and Angela is always adding more. Also, I was stoked to see that the app is now available for Android phones too. I switched from Apple to Android, and now I can have it on my new phone too! 

cooking from the OSG app

a soup so full of veggies, it's practically a stew!

I have loved pretty much every OSG soup recipe that I've tried, so I'm always interested in new soup recipes from Angela. The first time I flipped through OSGED, this Metabolism-Revving Spicy Cabbage Soup caught my eye right away - especially because after all the rich and abundant eating of holiday times, I was attracted to such a light and nutritious soup. I really loved the flavors and textures and body of this soup and I've already made it twice. It's not really all that spicy, as much as well-spiced, flavorful, and light. As most soups do, this soup also got better and better with each passing day.  This is a recipe I'm sure to make again and again.

a perfect winter time soup

Mr. VE&T and I loved this 6 Vegetable and "Cheese" SoupIt's loaded with veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots; it's got a hearty dose of nutritional yeast, and the result is thick, chunky, rich, and satisfying. I took the picture before I put on the pepitas and croutons for topping (doh!). It's not the most photogenic soup - ha ha! - but don't let that deter you from making it. I promise, it's really good! 

colorful and nutritious and delicious! 

I think this Sweet Potato, Chickpea, and Spinach Coconut Curry is one of my favorite recipes so far from this book. As you can see it's full of veggies and chickpeas. What you can't see is that it's warm and warming and super hearty. It's also a great use for chickpeas if you've been cooking up chickpeas just for the aquafaba. I like having a good stash of homemade aquafaba and homecooked chickpeas in the freezer -- in case of culinary emergencies! 

BFFs: Sweet potatoes, Chickpeas, and Me

so perfect

This Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad totally lives up to its name. I made this when some friends came over, and we all loved it. The base is a combination of Romaine lettuce and Lacinato Kale, with a rich and really delicious caesar dressing. The creamy tang of the dressing with the fresh crunch of the greens is an extremely satisfying combo. And, the toppings really make it even better: 
the Garlic-Roasted Chickpeas are an excellent spin on croutons, they're quick and easy to prepare and they provide a good umami blast, some chew, and some more protein to the salad.
The Vegan Parmesan Cheese is also in the book and is quick to throw together and also adds a lot to the salad over all - increased depth of flavor and cheesiness. Just writing about this recipe makes me want to eat it again right now! 

giant piles of good stuff!

This recipe for Loaded Sweet Potatoes is pretty straightforward, but somehow it is also so goood! I don't make potato-y things very often, but I loved these baked sweet potatoes overflowing with beans and salsa and Avocado-Cilantro Crema. In fact, as you can see, I've made these twice and I've been dreaming about them ever since. I especially loved the idea of using sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes - the sweetness goes so nicely with the salsa and the other toppings.
sweet dreams in my little sweet potato

creamy perfection!

Oh man, it doesn't happen often, but Mr VE&T and I disagreed on this one. I really really liked this dinner, and he didn't like it. What the heck!? Oh well, more for me! The All-Purpose Cheese Sauce in this Mac & Peas is great, with cashews, potatoes, carrots, nooch, a little coconut oil, and other goodies. It's thick and creamy and lovely. At least I thought so! Now I'll have to wait for Mr VE&T to have some other dinner plans so I can make this again. I'd also love to make the cheese sauce and put it to use as a dip or sauce with veggies, or on nachos! 

gluten-free and loaded with yumz

Oh wow, these Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies were so good! I love that this book has so many gluten-free treats. (In fact every recipe indicates up at the top of the page whether it's gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, oil-free, etc ) These cookies have shredded coconut, chocolate chips, oats, maple syrup, and peanut butter! I made these for one of my yoga classes - and they were a big hit! I always like to make gf cookies for my students, just in case any of my students are gf. I also have lots of friends and loved ones who are gf and so I'm always on the look out for special treats I can make for them. Also, I must say, I haven't yet ever made a dud cookie from one of Angela's recipes. I think she has some real cookie skillz! 

spiced, a little crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside

Speaking of excellent gluten-free cookies, I've already made these Chewy Molasses Spelt Cookies three times - they were just perfect for the holiday season and wintry treats! I love the amount of spices in this cookie and the crispy crackle of the outside paired with the chewy molasses-y insides. I also made these for my yoga students and they were happily devoured! 

ours is a household full of cookie fans!

There are a lot more recipes that I'd still like to make: 
Chili Cheese Nachos
Big Tabbouleh Bowl
Creamy Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup
Marinated Italian Tofu
Sweet Potato Casserole
Marinated Lentils
Thai Crunch Salad
Soba Noodle Salad
Chocolate-Almond Espresso Cookies

The book is divided up into nine chapters:
Smoothies and Smoothie Bowls
Sides and Soups
Cookies and Bars
Homemade Staples

True to her style, the recipes in OSGED are healthy without sacrificing flavor and tasty without being overly complex or requiring elaborate ingredients - both which I really appreciate.  This book would be especially good for newer vegans, for someone who is interested in exploring vegan or plant-based food, or as a gift to get for family members who never know what to cook for you. I particularly love that there are hardly any unusual "specialty" ingredients, you won't need to go to two natural food stores, the mainstream store, and Trader Joe's to complete your shopping for any of these recipes.

As I mentioned, I also have the first OSG cookbook and there are some similar recipes in both books, so there is a little bit of overlap. Several of the recipes in OSGED are quite simple: things like nut butters, coconut butter, chia pudding, two hummus recipes, guacamole, and avocado toast. I already know about these things, but I know there are a lot of folks out there who don't, and the book presents them really well and in clear and appealing way. And also, her recipes are consistently reliable: good, clear, easy to follow, easy to prepare. I really appreciate that about her recipes so much. I can't remember ever making a recipe from OSG and not having it come out the way I expected it to, which is really saying something. This book presents a good balance of simple and quick recipes along with more complex flavors and recipes. 

Aesthetically, the book is fantastic: every single recipe has a beautiful full-page color picture, the font is clean and lovely and easy to read, the ingredients are laid out clearly and in order of use, every recipe indicates if it's soy-free/gluten-free/oil-free/kid-friendly/etc, and prep time and cooking time estimate are provided. It's a pleasant and effortless user experience! 

As for me, I especially love the entrees, soups and salads, and the desserts! Plus, I mean really, a whole cookie chapter? I am, after all, the gal that made 13 kinds of cookies for my own wedding instead of a cake! 

The publishers at Avery Press sent me my copy of the book to review, and are are allowing me to offer a giveaway to this beautiful book to one lucky reader in the USA. To enter, please leave me a comment and tell me which recipes sound good to you, or what you ate for lunch today, or just about anything will do! And please leave your email or make sure I can get a hold of you or I will just pick a different winner! Good luck! 

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!