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Sometimes I wish someone had warned me that artists (can I just interject here and say that I feel like a fraud writing that, but I couldn’t think of a better term) should not be inclined to be sentimental about holidays, after all it is when the majority of people are off work that they want to be entertained-enter aforementioned artists. So with Nutcracker performances taking advantage of the calendar holidays, my ‘Christmas holiday’ got bumped back and is just finishing up now so please excuse the rather late holiday wrap up, but I’m still working on getting back to real life just now.

My holiday travels took me to two fairly different climates, so I got a white christmas (hooray!!) but also a wet, watery one.               

     

I figured I owed you a picture of THE tree as well. Here it is all decked out on Christmas morning. This one was about average height-wise but we often end up with a wider one than this. I went through a phase of being displeased with the non- Martha Stewart ness of our trees, but I have come to accept the fact that our trees are beautiful and festive in their own, natural way (although that still doesn’t stop me from trying to come up with ways that I could cultivate my own or something so it could be huge and perfect! :D).

Here are the trees that decked out our apartment as well. Our little living room was nice and festive for the holidays- the best way to have it!

                                                                                                                                                

In addition to general family time, there was much baking (saving that for another post!), visiting friends, engaging in wintery activities, bunny sitting, sewing and a bit of holiday crafting. All in all it was a lovely and restful vacation and now it’s back at it!

I started working on these ornaments a few years ago, and have been veeery slowly getting them finished. There will be, eventually, four large (finished this go around!), eight medium (finished last year), and eight small (still to be completed). A classic example of a project that sounds great in my head but ends up being way more work than I anticipated.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful holiday and getting back into the real world wasn’t too harsh!

-Kathleen

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I am doing a smidge better on my gift list; we are now at 1.5 gifts! Hey, its a 150% increase – great success! 😀 In other news, in case you happened to be wondering, deciding to do 300 jump lunges as an exercise safeguard on your day off is a bad idea unless you are planning on not moving around the day after. However if you do, you can look forward to everyday activities like going up and down stairs and sitting on the toilet (and furthermore, getting back up off it) becoming monumental acheivements. Of course, I’m not speaking from experience or anything, just thought that was a useful tidbit of information to share in the spirit of giving for the holidays. 😉

Okay so yesterday we covered the foodies on your list. How about the fashionista? Possibly a difficult individual if vegan, or even if you just are and don’t want to compromise your beliefs with your purchases.

Under $100:

Jewlery. This can basically fall into any category, so go take a peek at the links in the over $100 category. Etsy is also a great place to look and it’s wonderful to be able to support small businesses and artisans.

Cosmetics are another good bet, and more and more vegan brands are able to be found locally. Try Sephora or MAC for makeup and other higher end products, if you are looking for a local store. Also, here are a few of the more common brands to look for that are vegan:

Giovanni

Some Burts Bee’s products (more if you are okay with bee byproducts)

Jason

Natures Gate

Urban Decay (not all vegan-look for the pawprint)

Accessories are another good bet to find locally (since that is quickly becoming the only option for us last-minute folk). Think scarves, gloves (though beware of leather!), mitts, etc. and if you are crafty, you still have time to whip up a lovely handmade goodie or two.

Over $100:

Jewelry is always a good bet. The earrings shown are from Brilliant Earth which touts eco-friendly metals and cruelty-free diamonds. Something from here would definitely be a splurge (of varying proportions) but they do have really nice looking products and you can even design your own ring, which I think is pretty exciting (though I don’t even want to think about how much that would probably cost). Some other, potentially less costly options for vegan jewelry are:

http://www.snootyjewelry.com

http://www.christyrobinsondesigns.com/default.html

I am also partial to the offerings from this Etsy seller, however the products aren’t specifically vegan so it depends on where you draw the line.

A beautiful vegan winter coat. These are hard to come by but Vaute Couture has you covered (and often you can find sportswear coats that are vegan as well).

Shoes! Most fashionistas are big into shoes, but depending on the individual it might be a difficult thing to buy for someone else. However, if you are (or maybe this is your gift to yourself?) take a gander at my previous shoe list or investigate a few of these vegan retailers:

http://charmone.com

http://www.novacas.com

http://www.beyondskin.co.uk/

http://formandfauna.com

http://www.terraplana.com/index.php (not all vegan)

http://www.simpleshoes.com/index.aspx (also not all vegan)

A bag. Matt and Nat is a great all-vegan brand to look into and if a bag is too pricey, they also have wallets and belts that are more friendly budget-wise.

-Kathleen (I figured that after over two years, I should stop hiding behind just a letter! ;))

So, it would appear that we are 9 days out from Christmas (which may or may not be putting me into a mild state of panic- I have one gift and it is in progress; a scarf for my brother that is about half knit) and I have been meaning to post some gift suggestions and I think it is pretty much now or never. If you happen to be like me and still have a list of folks to buy for, maybe I can be of assistance. Today, we are covering the foodie:

Under $20:

How cute are these whisks? And at $10 these would be a great stocking stuffer or small gift for a friend (hostess gift?) They also come in a bird variety.

Cookie Cutters are always fun and there are endless varieties and you can pretty much always find cute ones locally. This set is from amazon but Ikea and Michaels both have nice sets as well.

A silpat! This one from amazon is $18.07, which seems quite reasonable (I recall seeing them in stores for much more than that) however for those of you trying to purchase from stores I am pretty sure Williams Sonoma carries them (and probably other fancypants kitchen goods type stores) but I would guess it will be pricier. I have a silpat and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Greasing baking pans is pretty much the bane of my existance, and with the Silpat ‘t you don’t have to and you needn’t worry about having to chisel burnt cookie bits off your pans either. It’s great for roasting veggies too! Needless to say, this comes personally recommended.

A good silicone spatula that won’t melt. Another thing that would be pretty easy to find locally, a fun stocking stuffer type gift, and really who can’t use another spatula?

$20-$100:

Ice cream maker. You can really choose how much you want to spend on them. The one pictured is very similar to the one my parents have and it works quite well, albeit does require some planning as the insert must be frozen for at least a day before you can use it. It would also be super cute to gift this with a vegan ice cream cookbook inside.

Cookbooks are always a good bet, especially if it comes personally recommended and you have favourite recipes to tab. Or how about a cookbook with a favourite recipe highlighted and the ingredients to make it? Some of my favourite cookbooks are Veganomicon; Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan; The Voluptuous Vegan (I really like the desserts that I have made from it, but definitely more time consuming); Vegan Yum Yum (Eve has been cooking up a storm from this one lately); Vegan Cookies InvadeYour Cookie Jar (a cookbook of cookie recipes, need I say more? Not health food though, just saying! ;))   

 

Over $100:

A Vita-Mix. Okay, so this is an awfully pricey gift, but really, Vita-Mixes are all kinds of amazing and if you are looking for a big gift, you should definitely consider one. Eve and I each have one and we use them all the time, and in our current living situation we have them on either side of the sink- duelling Vita-Mixes!! Amazon sells them and I know Costco has had them as well from time to time.

Food Processor. I have a Cuisinart, which is what I grew up with and I have been really happy with the quality (I think my parents replaced theirs after 20+ years of heavy use)  of it and I love the attachment blades. I got mine as a package from Costco a few years back and it came with two blades, a slicing and a grating blade, and I use the grating blade all the time! I linked to a really expensive combination pack on Amazon, but you can definitely find way cheaper options out there, so do shop around.

Happy Shopping and here’s hoping you are further along than I am!

-K

***Have you checked out our tea giveaway yet? There’s going to be two winners, and the prize is awesome!***

 

I ended up choosing to make cookies for my non-vegan potluck last week. These caught my eye a while back, with their festive colouring and this seemed like the perfect reason to veganize the recipe, which really wasn’t hard at all. As I was going for maximum vegan decadence I didn’t make any of my usual recipe alterations, so this truly is a dessert cookie; not much to go on in terms of convincing yourself that they are good for you (unless you want to go the antioxidant route- pomegranate and dark chocolate, knock yourself out! ;)). Alas, mine didn’t end up quite as pretty as the original as I opted for dark chocolate due to the general absence of vegan white chocolate in these parts.

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from here)

1/2 cup earth balance

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

3 tablespoons water (or milk alternative)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup rolled oats (I used quick but I do think that old fashioned would be better)

1 cup dark chocolate chips (you could probably go with 3/4 of a cup – I found that I had an awful lot of chips that wouldn’t mix into the batter)

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place earth balance and sugars in a medium mixing bowl. Whip (or stir with a wooden spoon- I was going for fluffy so I whipped them with beaters) until fully combined. In a small bowl, mix the first measures of baking soda and powder with the water/milk and flour. Pour into butter sugar mixture with vanilla extract and beat again to combine.

In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, stir to mix. Pour into wet ingredients in two or three batches, stirring between additions. Stir in chocolate chips and oats. Scoop out about tablespoon sized balls, squish five or six pomegranate arils into the ball and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven and leave on cookie sheet for a minute or two to cool. You could also stir the arils into the batter with the chocolate chips to save time but the batter would likely get stained with burst arils.

So the verdict seemed to be pretty good regarding the cookies as people couldn’t believe they were vegan and they were definitely a plate real estate contender despite the other offerings being an eggnog cheesecake and a lemon poppyseed cake. A success in my books!

-K

Whew, VeganMofo is certainly a feast for the eyes! I have come across so many delicious looking things that I really want to remember, particularly with holiday goodies on my mind. I figured that a post of what I’m drooling over right now was in order (both for me and you- I always have a devil of a time trying to remember where I saw that delicious looking recipe)

First up, macarons!! How cute would chocolate macarons with pepperming filling be on a holiday tray? Or, peppermint and chocolate, chocolate and orange… (heh, do we sense a theme here with the chocolate?) I also think it would be fun to experiment with this recipe as a meringue; I was all exciting when I came up with the brilliant idea of a pumpking meringue pie, only to Google it and find out that alas, I am not quite the culinary trailblazer I had envisioned. Nevertheless, plenty of ideas about this one.

Cranberry Chocolate Tartelettes, yes please! How pretty and unique would these be on a holiday cookie tray, or baked up into a big tart for an end of meal showstopper?

Cranberry Gingerbread. Yum! I love fresh cranberries and this recipe is refined sweetener free and gluten-free!!

Chocolate Chestnut Tart. I love chestnuts and while I have never had them combined with chocolate, I am betting it’s a delicious marriage. Also, how pretty would this be sitting on the dessert table at a holiday meal? Or a slice of this while cozied up in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate/tea  and a good movie/company? Mmmm…

German Gingerbread Cookies, how adorable and the flavour combination sounds amazing!

 

Coconut Macaroons. I love me a good coconut recipe, and these look like the perfect way to try to replicate the non-vegan macaroons I used to love.

Not so vegan but on my list of things to veganize!!

Pomegranate White Chocolate Mousse. Sounds delectable! Love the stark contrast between white and red; I’m thinking making some mousse with just the white chocolate, and some pomegranate and swirling them in bowls/tartelettes.

Hope my American readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving with plenty of tasty food!

-K