Category Archives: holiday

Cranberry Almond Coconut Balls

I’m pretty beat.

I’m ready for Christmas so that I can just relax, and work will stop being a whirlwind of people scrambling to get massive projects done at the last minute. I work in n industry where people being “last minute lucys” turns into our problem if we can’t make a 2-day job happen in 1-hour.

Of course, the 2-day job in 1 hour could potentially happen if everybody wasn’t working on the same deadline.

Such is life. There is a calm after the storm just like there is one before it.

And at least I had time to make these this weekend.

DSC_4866

After making my Mounds Balls, I quickly realized 20 balls for 5 hungry people (some going to families) was not going to cut it – especially at the rate that those balls are demanded. I made some again the next morning.

DSC_4804DSC_4806

But, you may know me enough by now that I couldn’t just do the same ol’ Mounds Balls as I made the night before. When my eye caught the dried cranberries I’d picked up, I decided to work them in there, too.

DSC_4808DSC_4811

DSC_4810

Part of me also really wanted to work in some almond butter, but I resisted on the basis that even I am not completely sold on eating almond butter straight up, and so didn’t think I could convince anyone else of it, either.

DSC_4812

Then I wanted to make another batch with peanut butter – but aren’t there already peanut butter balls made with sugar and graham crackers and rolled in chocolate? Buckeyes or something? So I passed.

I like to remain relatively original. Hence why I don’t bake things like chocolate chip cookies. It breeds for comparison, and I’m really not that good of a baker. I dare you to find someone who doesn’t have a “favorite” chocolate chip cookie. Now think of how many people you know that have a favorite lemon poppyseed cookie. I rest my case. I will never be able to compete against people’s favorite chocolate chip cookies, no matter how good mine are.

DSC_4813

I used (and recommend) marcona almonds for this recipe – but I’m sure any almonds would be fine. I just enjoy the salty, smooth marcona almonds to contrast the sweetness of the coconut, and cranberry.

And FWIW, my disclaimers about this recipe are the same as they were for the Mounds Balls. I am in no way, shape or form declaring these to be healthified. They are, however, an enjoyable treat that gets you out of ay kind of trouble. Though maybe not quiiiiite as easily as the Mounds Balls do Winking smile 

DSC_4850

DSC_4851

Cranberry-Almond Coconut Balls

for 21 balls:

  • scant 3/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 c. date syrup
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, softened but not liquid
  • 1 c. finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries (I think mine were fruit juice-sweetened, though only because I have a terrible time finding unsweetened!)
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped marcona almonds
  • 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips
  • 1” square parafin wax, finely chopped
  • 1 square baker’s chocolate, finely chopped

Cream together the date syrup, sugar and coconut oil. When smooth, add in the coconut, cranberries and almonds. Mix to combine, then chill for approx. 30 minutes.

When chilled, line a small baking sheet with waxed paper. Roll the coconut mixture into about tablespoon-sized balls, and place on the paper. Try and make sure they’re not touching. Freeze for at least an hour, or overnight.

When balls are frozen, set up a double boiler on the stove with the chocolate chips, wax and baker’s chocolate. Heat until smooth and thoroughly melted. When ready, remove from heat and drop the balls in a few at a time, using the spoon and your fingers to thoroughly coat. Place back on the waxed paper baking sheets when done, and chill/freeze when set.

I toasted some coconut and marcona almonds to sprinkle on top, too – which is entirely optional but an added touch. You’ll need to sprinkle it on a couple of seconds after you place the balls on the sheets, though, as the wax casues it to set pretty quick.

DSC_4861

DSC_4864

DSC_4871

I preferred these over the Mounds Balls, but most likely because I like “different” things.

What about you – do you like to break the mold, or do you tend to go with the flow?

16 Comments

Filed under baking, christmas, coconut, holiday, recipe

How to Become a Legend

My mom is a little bit of a legend. It is due solely to this one recipe lurking in her little black box.

DSC_4756

DSC_4758

My mom isn’t one of those women who is constantly baking. She’d rather be outside doing something, working around the house. She bakes a lot come Christmas time, and occasionally during the winter months. It is a rare sight to see her baking in the summer.

She’s made these Mounds Balls every Christmas for the past…lot of years.

No one – no one – lets her forget it.

My bosses don’t let me forget it, either. I hear about them all year…joking “you can do whatever you want if you bring coconut balls!”

“Sorry, that’s only at Christmas time!” is the constant reply.

Nothing really makes these inherently Christmas-y except for the aforementioned reason that she only bakes this time of year.

And it’d never occurred to me before this year that maybe I could try making them myself. I mean, I wouldn’t mind being a legend!

DSC_4768

I even had some tricks up my sleeve. If I were Bobbette Flay, this is where I’d ask her Are you ready for a Throwdown?”

We’re both winners, though.

DSC_4770DSC_4771

A few things before we get started:

  • Only make these if you want an “out” out of every wrong thing you do. An instant way to make people forgive you.
  • Only make these if you want to instantly convince people to give you your way.
  • Only make these if you want to become legendary.
  • Only make these if you’ve got room for freezing a lot of balls. (We’re making balls, here. There’s going to be balls jokes.)
  • One last thing: I’m usually posting “healthified” recipes. Let me get this out of the way: this has not been healthified. In the least. They’re basically balls of sugar. And that’s totally okay. Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m totally satisfied after (half of) one, yet recognize how good they are Winking smile

DSC_4772DSC_4773

DSC_4774

DSC_4777DSC_4779

DSC_4780

Even making the original recipe with my mom, I’d prefer them before coating in chocolate, and she’s the same. It’s now becoming clear where my “I don’t care for chocolate” tastebuds come from.

Still, I coated them because I realize the large majority of people would much rather have them covered in dark chocolate than a random little ball of sugar and coconut.

DSC_4760DSC_4766DSC_4764

Added bonus? They’re easy. A little time consuming since they can’t really be made in one sitting – but easy.

Mounds Balls

Slightly adapted from an old Taste of Home recipe for Mounds Balls

for 21 balls:

  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 1 c. finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 c. flaked, sweetened coconut
  • 1/8 c. sweetened condensed almond milk (recipe below)
  • 1/4 t. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped roasted almonds
  • 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips
  • 2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1” square of parafin wax
  • optional: additional almonds and coconut, toasted, for topping after dipping in chocolate

1. Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a large mixing bowl and then add in the coconut oil. It’s okay to microwave it a few seconds to get it softened, but you don’t want it runny. Mix on high until “creamed.” Some notes: 1. You will need an electric blender for this. 2. It will take a while, but it will come together just before you admit defeat. 3. You’ll probably want to start slowly and work your way up to extra fast. Unless you want sugar in places it shouldn’t be.

Don’t ask me how I know any of that.

DSC_4770DSC_4771

2. Add in the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla and almonds. Blend just to combine. Chill the mixture in the fridge for about half an hour.

3. Once chilled, line a small baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the mixture into approx. tablespoon-sized balls and place on baking sheet. You won’t want them touching. Once all are done (I got 24, though I was a bit inconsistent with size) freeze for at least 30 minutes.

DSC_4783

4. Once your balls are frozen, set up a double boiler by placing a small-medium sized bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate chips, bakers chocolate and wax. You’ll want to make sure you shave the wax and bakers chocolate pretty finely, or else your chips will be melted but you’ll still have hunks of wax. Again – not that I would know anything about that.

DSC_4852DSC_4854

DSC_4858

Make sure you’re careful not to let the water come up the sides and ruin your chocolate, too. One drop and you’ve gotta start over!

Once it’s smooth and ready, remove from heat (but keep on top of the hot water so it stays warm) and drop in a couple coconut balls at once. Spoon the chocolate over so it’s entirely coated, and then remove, setting back on the wax-lined sheets. Nothing fancy, folks – just use your spoon and the fingers!

If the chocolate starts to thicken, just put it back over heat. Once all are done, freeze or chill until set. Optional: I toasted some coconut and almonds that I sprinkled over top. This needs to be done almost immediately after dipping the balls, though, or else it won’t stick.

DSC_4859DSC_4861

DSC_4876

DSC_4878

Only thing better than these mounds balls? The rendition I came up with when feeling like breaking the mold:

DSC_4864

You’ll see that tomorrow Winking smile

Now…go make yourself a legend!

EDITED to add the Sweetened Condensed Non-Dairy Milk recipe that I forgot!

Simply simmer 1/4 c. brown sugar (lightly packed) with 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk, 1 T. earth balance and 1 t. vanilla extract until thickened. Stir/whisk often.

18 Comments

Filed under baking, christmas, coconut, holiday, recipe

The Goodie Bags

It wasn’t until I was brushing my teeth this morning that I froze and remembered one crucial thing:

I never taste-tested the ginger cookies or the lemon poppyseed cookies.

I’d made them before and knew I liked the recipe – but never even thought to taste test this batch and make sure all was a-ok. My mom, my alternate taste tester, never did either. (we usually split duties because neither of us ever want a whole cookie/bread/what-have-you)

DSC_4816

We’re sort of funny that way, I guess. I got an e-mail asking if I ate what I made, too, and if not, how did I exercise such restraint.

I don’t consider it exercising restraint – I’m just not that big of a sweets eater, I suppose? I’m all for making the goodies, and often times will rather clean the cookie dough off the spoon and then share taste-testing responsibilities with my mom. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t feel like if I bake, I’ll eat everything…a sample is fine, and my sweet tooth is satisfied. Even after  just a couple of samplings on the first day of baking, all I wanted was to sit down with hummus and carrots!

DSC_4749

Am I gross for dipping my carrots straight into the hummus tub? Probably. Am I the only one eating hummus in this house? Yes. So I’m not worried. Just don’t eat hummus if you come to my house, I guess.

That said, I still enjoy sampling, and I think my problem is not that I dislike sweets – it’s that most “normal” sweets are just too sweet for my tastebuds.

but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a good cookie when I try one. And I have confidence that every single goodie that wound up in my goodie bags fits that bill!

DSC_4884

I had planned on sharing the coconut balls recipes with you guys – but instead I’ll give you a quick run-down on everything I made. Hopefully if aybody is looking for a good holiday recipe, this will help!

DSC_4714

DSC_4708DSC_4709

DSC_4715

First up was the Never HomeMaker’s Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies. Peppermint extract was the other extract that found its’ way into my basket after being on sale! I knew mint + chocolate sounded like a perfect combination for Christmas.

DSC_4721DSC_4722

DSC_4723DSC_4741

DSC_4739

The dough proved to be one of the. best. cookie doughs ever. And the smell? I wanted to dive right in. I almost took back every single thing I said about not having a sweet tooth.

DSC_4743DSC_4747

The dough also proved to be tricky to work with. It kept crumbling apart, and at one point I thought it was going to be a complete and utter fail. I finally added a bit of almond milk which helped some. I think having the chocolate chips made it more difficult for them to stay together? I can’t figure out what I did wrong, because Ashley’s look really moist ad cake-like. I wouldn’t say mine were dry, but definitely more cookie-like.

Oh, well – they still tasted good, and managed to make it in one piece. Click here for the recipe.

DSC_4696DSC_4697

DSC_4699DSC_4702

DSC_4703

Next up? Eat, Drink and Be Vegan’s Maple Pecan Sticky Blondies.

I made them with walnuts, though, so I called them Maple Walnut Sticky Blondies Winking smile 

DSC_4725DSC_4726

DSC_4729

DSC_4731DSC_4735

DSC_4752

Ohhh my lawd – now these. These were my hands-down favorite. Not too sweet, and definitely a dessert that I would enjoy! Unfortunately, there was hardly enough for the five baggies I was putting together, and was left with just a couple of slivers.

DSC_4842

DSC_4843

The minor amount of molasses in these really comes through in the flavor. It threw my mom for a loop at first, but I think that might be what makes them so exceptional to me. Paired with maple syrup and walnuts? And moist and sticky from the help of coconut milk yogurt? Pour yourself a glass of milk and have a party, you deserve it.

DSC_4789DSC_4795

DSC_4792

DSC_4798DSC_4800

When I was first compiling my “baking list,” I had pretty much all cookies. Then the blondies butted in, and I knew a bread or muffin would tie everything together. Veganomicon’s Cranberry-Orange-Nut bread sounded perfectly seasonal.

DSC_4801

DSC_4824DSC_4848

These are the instances when I adore these mini loaf pans…even if it meant I totally fudged up the baking time. I should have baked these for a shorter amount of time than instructed, but I totally forgot about that.

As such, they developed a really thick crust, but luckily – remained moist and flavorful on the inside. I cut back a hair on the sugar (I should mention that whether I’m baking for myself or others, I always cut back at least a little bit on the sugar.) ad loved the subtle sweetness. It didn’t overpower the mingling of the cranberry and orange, but didn’t leave you puckering either.

This bread gets the award for “most sampled.” I just couldn’t decide if the thick crust was enough to get it kicked out of the goodie bag, but when my mom’s boyfriend tasted it blindly and said it was delicious, in it went.

DSC_4829

The other two cookies were tried and trueVegan with a Vengeance’s Sparkled Ginger Cookies and Eat, Drink & Be Vegan’s Lemon Poppyseed Crinkle Cookies.

Which leaves us with only two things…

DSC_4851

Two kinds of balls! Here they are naked.

Which do you prefer – quick breads or cookies?

Are you a cookie monster, or would you rather bake them?

26 Comments

Filed under baking, christmas, cookies, holiday, recipe

Cornbread Stuffing with Mushrooms

Well. This was an action-packed weekend!

We just sold Georgie. Well, not officially as in “she’s gone,” officially as in “she leaves this weekend.” Ironically, we just barely decided to officially post them as for sale this weekend. I guess it’s sort of a good thing that it’s yet to sink in…but I know she’ll be getting a great home.

In case anyone is wondering who I’m talking about – this girl:

DSC_0843s

One of the two ponies we “saved” this summer. We took them in with full intent of rehoming one if not both of them…though we sort of put it off as we were having so much fun with them, and with the winter freeze upon us we can’t really continue their training to improve their marketability. (That and I had secret dreams of going to dressage shows with not one but two Haflinger ponies.) But logically, I know I won’t have time or funds to train two horses in addition to work and school, and it’s not right to let one of them just sit because of that. As an animal lover, I know to put the animal first. Georgie is too sweet, too young, and has too much potential to sit in our backyard. Now she’ll be doted on and hey – maybe we’ll even compete against her! Wouldn’t that be something?!

She was definitely fun to work with, though Smile If I had all the money in the world, I would bring her to the barn I’ve got Teddie at to work with – but, I just don’t. And one is enough for me Smile

Anyways. I feel like I’ve baked up a storm this weekend as well as practically lived outside. Oh, and I have no AA batteries for my flash so I only have a couple breakfast pictures because daylight savings makes it dark for dinner and my lunches weren’t particularly aesthetically pleasing.

DSC_4201

So instead, we’ll just talk stuffing. Or dressing. Whatever. A couple of you were curious about the cornbread stuffing I made, and since it was so good – I want to post it for my own safe-keeping, too! You’ve probably seen these pictures before, but just work with me.

DSC_4172DSC_4175

I chose a simple cornbread for this. You don’t need some crazy-good, intricate cornbread – just something simple and traditional I feel would show it off best. I used Moosewood’s Vegan Cornbread recipe, which I can’t find online so you’ll just have to buy the Cooking for Health cookbook.

DSC_4180DSC_4181

And, to give credit where credit is due – I never would have made cornbread dressing were it not for Sarena. There never would have been mushrooms had it not been for a stuffing recipe in Everyday with Rachel Ray. And there ever would have been a pear were it not for the ppk.

DSC_4176 

And before you ask, yes, I do enjoy reading Everyday with Rachel Ray. I choose that over Glamour and Cosmo all the time. And yes, I did sneak that pear in there just to defy my mother. After we were done, she said “And you didn’t trick me – I know you put a pear in there!”

She did love this stuffing/dressing, though.

Cornbread Stuffing with Mushrooms

  • 1 1/2 9” pie plates of cornbread
  • 3 T. Earth Balance or olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • ~2 c. kale, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 10 oz. package of white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 t. dried sage
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. + 2 T. vegetable broth
  • 1 medium red pear, diced

Preheat the oven to 350*. Cut the cornbread into approximately 1/2” pieces and spread onto a baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, heat the oil or melt the earth balance in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, then add in the kale and celery. Cook until kale is wilted, and add in the mushrooms. Cook until tender. Season with sage and salt.

Add in the toasted cornbread and gently incorporate everything together. Some pieces will start to crumble, but that’s okay. Gently stir in the broth and pear, and pour mixture into a lightly oiled 9×13 pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until lightly browned.

And trust me – you won’t want to wait until next Thanksgiving to try this…although you might want to halve or quarter the recipe if you’re only feeding yourself…this served four of us Thanksgiving day, and we still had more than half left. If I had to guess, maybe 10 or so servings?

What’s your favorite dressing/stuffing consist of?

16 Comments

Filed under dinner, holiday, recipe

The Day After

I really hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving, and continues to enjoy company of family this weekend. I loved spending the day/morning in the kitchen, but after our meal was eaten, our walk was walked and the horses were taken care of…I was more than happy to sit down!

We never have big holiday celebrations. I am perfectly okay with that…I’m not much of a “big gathering” person. It feels weird to say my family isn’t very bonded because it makes us seem like shut-outs…but I our family is very small and spread out across the states. I can’t remember ever having a Christmas or a Thanksgiving with more than 6 people!

That said, we didn’t go overboard cooking, either. There was just enough food to still be “special,” but not enough to feel like it was wasteful. We were only missing a green bean casserole! Which I don’t actually like, nor does anyone else…hence why it was missing. There was asparagus on the menu, but it was bad and we just figured we’d have enough food without it. Which was certainly true…but I would have loved a broccoli casserole, too Smile with tongue out

Anyways. I left you guys with some mysterious rolls and cakes…

DSC_4124

…but what were they?

DSC_4145DSC_4150

Firstly, Monet’s Sweet Potato Rolls. My knots are nowhere near as gorgeous as hers – but these were a mega hit. I made them just as is, taking the vegan option and using a flax egg and oil. The dough came together perfectly, and were easy and fun to make, too.

DSC_4131 DSC_4134

DSC_4136

But this is Thanksgiving. Who stops at one carb?! I was completely torn between recipes for rolls – and so bright and early yesterday morning, started working on Monet’s Herbed Monkey Bread.

DSC_4137 DSC_4138

DSC_4139

DSC_4140

This dough was so nice to work with, too – so soft, smooth and elastic. Dare I compare food to a baby’s bottom? It’s a guess – I’ve never changed diapers to know.

Of course, these could have turned out horrible and it’d have been okay – I’d already sauteed garlic in basil oil, and that does me in every time.

DSC_4141DSC_4142

DSC_4168

DSC_4169

These, too, were raved about. Just their aroma brings a smile to my face! I wanted to serve them with a garlic butter, but my mom immediately said “nah, they’re garlicky enough.” Sometimes I forget that I could easily add two cloves to something I’m making for one serving and not even blink an eye.

Whoops.

The only change to the recipe was using unbleached bread flour for the all purpose, and basil oil for the olive oil (which is just olive oil infused with basil) and for the oil coating, used the basil oil, two cloves of garlic and a tablespoon of dried italian seasoning. Wondrous. Who doesn’t love pulling off a hunk of monkey bread?!

DSC_4154DSC_4156

DSC_4158

Next on the list was frosting my mysterious cake – which was Angela’s Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with Buttercream Icing.

I had the pumpkin chiffon cake planned, but when I read the recipe closer, it called for 9 eggs. I thought it meant a total of 5 (4 eggs + 5 egg whites) but when I read closer realized that was a lot of eggs. I told my mom why I wasn’t making it and she exclaims

That’s a lot of eggs! That’s expensive, don’t make that.”

I love moms because they tell us not to do something after we’ve already said we aren’t.

DSC_4159DSC_4161

I made as is (cutting back a hair on the sugar) and was shocked at how much batter I got. It said 8 servings, but I’m pretty sure this could feed at least 16.

I also halved the buttercream. It looked really thick and none of us are “frosting-y” people. You know those cakes that you buy at the store, all frosted? Yeah, my mom ad I would always scrape it off as soon as it hit our plate.

My thoughts on it:

  • buttercream was still really sweet – but I can’t complain because the family likes it and it’s easy enough to scrape off Smile with tongue out
  • it tastes just like my gingerbread muffins…which is odd because this one is a looot more decadent.

DSC_4171DSC_4172

DSC_4173

And thennnnn….stuffing!! Er, dressing, whatever. I feel weird calling it dressing, but it wasn’t stuffed in anything so dressing it is. I’d rather call it…bread casserole or something.

Either way, it’s something I’ll be making again whether it’s Thanksgiving or not!

DSC_4175DSC_4176

DSC_4180

This never would have happened without inspiration from Sarena. I’d never had cornbread stuffing before, and when she first posted it – I had to have it.

The recipe, however, was a combination  of a couple ideas. I promised myself I would strictly follow recipes for Thanksgiving…but c’mon…who was I kidding? That’s not very “me.”

DSC_4181

DSC_4193DSC_4201

Maybe I’ll share the recipe, even though everyone is probably stuffed from all the stuffing they’ve had Smile with tongue out It is my favorite part!! This cornbread dressing was probably the best I’ve ever had, too. My mom also made some of her “traditional” stuffing, to stuff the actual bird with.

DSC_4184DSC_4198

I went very simply with the butternut. And it may have been one of my favorites. This mixed with the cranberry sauce? Ahmgaw. I may or may not have cleared off the table faster than I should have because I wanted to make sure I had some for lunch today. And finished what wasn’t left for snack. And it was a big squash.

I just tossed it with a bit of olive oil, salt, and a tiny sprinkle of brown sugar.

DSC_4185DSC_4188

DSC_4189DSC_4190

DSC_4199

My other favorite part (because I clearly can’t pick a favorite part)? Cranberry sauce! I sort of winged this, too. I used hot apple cider to boil/simmer it in instead of water, and spiced it with ground clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I sweetened it with maple syrup and cane sugar as well as the jucie of one clementine and its’ zest.

DSC_4200

And no, those are not raspberry seeds – I did not add raspberries. I did, however, add chia seeds. Don’t look at me like that…I needed something to thicken it! It wasn’t thickening quite like I wanted it to. Chia seeds did the trick and no one was ay the wiser, though after I did it I was sure I was going to get “what are these whitish things in the cranberry sauce?!?!” questions. I also left it nice and tart. Which means…perfect leftovers –

DSC_4204

…for pancakes this morning! So yum. I don’t know why I don’t just always make up a batch of cranberry sauce with my cranberries – but I think I’ll start now!

Yesterday, though, I had a little bit of everything except for Turkey and my mom’s stuffing. This was my first Thanksgiving birdless…and honestly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. I try not to view anything as “off-limits,” though – so I came to an agreement with myself that if I wanted Turkey, I’d eat Turkey. But I really didn’t want any. It just wasn’t appealing to me, after being meat-free for so long. Dairy and other animal products are becoming the same way as I use less and less of those, too.

And I just realized that I kept capitalizing turkey, which is a little weird. Guess I had that much respect for the big guy?

Another thing I noticed? I’m really becoming in-tune with my body. While usually Thanksgiving is a day to stuff yourself silly, ignoring all “full” signals…I was able to eat just enough. Happily content, but not feeling deprived. It was so nice to be able to go for a walk with family after and not feel so weighed down Smile with tongue out

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

27 Comments

Filed under baking, cooking, dinner, holiday