Tag Archives: christmas

…and a Partridge in a Fig Tree…

Ways to Enjoy a Christmas Weekend:

  • Be awoken by a wet-nosed dog jumping on your bed and sticking its’ nose down your covers and then your shirt.
  • Rub Frank’s Red Hot in your eye after marinating tofu in it and not washing your hands well enough after handling it.
  • Frantically wrap all of the presents you’ve collected but had no time to wrap.
  • Frantically clean and do laundry that you’ve had no time to do.
  • Make Super-Charge Me cookies for Santa. I am Santa in that sentence.
  • Lots of nature walks in the woods.
  • Wake up before anyone else and decide to kill time until everyone is up by making cinnamon rolls and surfing the web.
  • While surfing the web, get the blue screen of death from your computer. Start freaking out about it, but don’t really have time to be worried because then everyone else is up.
  • Enjoy a wonderfully relaxed holiday with family. And feel incredibly lucky for the wonderful company and the opportunity to finally slow down.

Ah, yes. Aside from the couple mis-haps…I’ve had a wonderful weekend “detoxing” from all the insanity leading up to Christmas. I really hope everyone else has had time to rewind and enjoy themselves and the company of loved ones, too!

As mentioned, Christmas this year was really laid back. We didn’t even do anything special for dinner last night or Christmas Eve. We had a more formal breakfast/brunch as usual, but that was it. And I am certainly not complaining.

…even if I did have to break in to one of my stocking stuffers to tide me over to breakfast. Hey, eating breakfast at 9:30 is a new concept to me. And I love cookie buttons.

Anyways. I mentioned baking cinnamon rolls, didn’t I?

My mom always makes a sausage strata fro Christmas, and not much else. Strata is pretty filling and with just the four of us, there’s not need for more food. Since I wasn’t going to have any, I was almost just going to make my usual breakfast since there wasn’t the need for another big dish to be on the table.

I suggested I could make baked oatmeal, but my mom said she didn’t like oatmeal…only for me to remember how much she enjoys oatmeal on her breaktime.

“If you don’t like oatmeal…why do you eat it at work?”

Oh, that’s microwaved oatmeal.”

“…and…?”

It’s got…apples…and stuff…”

Oh, I guess you’re right…because I’d just make something bland and tasteless.”

I didn’t press the issue, though…and even though I really wanted to make cinnamon rolls, figured I’d just take things as they came. I wasn’t too worried about the food situation this Christmas, I guess.

And then of course, the next morning, I just had to make Veganomicon’s cinnamon buns. You can only put off a recipe for so long, and the Maple and Brown Sugar Pinwheels have been calling my name for a while now. Okay, only since last weekend when I did all the baking, but a week is long enough.

I ended up switching the flavor notes around a little, by really playing on the orange zest in the original recipe. I added dried cranberries to the brown sugar filling, and for the 2 cups of flour, used 1 c. white whole wheat, 1/2 c. graham, and 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose. For the spices in the dough, I added cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove and ginger…and put a big ix-nay on thie icing-ay.

…and some walnuts in the filling, too.

These were delicious and loved by all, and you know what? They’re really not even all that bad for you! Gotta love it. I could easily have them with less sugar, too – even though for 8 buns only 1/3 c. sugar was used, I think I could easily halve it and the filling would be sweet enough to make up for it.

I spooned some coconut milk yogurt over mine because I was afraid it would be too dry otherwise, but that really just caused it to be a bit too sweet.

I’ve had worse problems.

Like the fact that, as mentioned, my computer has pooed in its bed. Everyone cross your fingers that I can at least do a harddrive recovery and get back the senior portraits and pictures on there! I wouldn’t mind a new Mac, though…even if I do mind shelling out that cashmoney.

This dilemma is currently making blogging rather difficult, as I’m just now realizing how streamlined Windows Live Writer is, after all. I didn’t like it at first, but I think I just hate change until I get used to things. Using my mom’s computer and blogging from the wordpress dashboard? Yeah, it’s sort of like making a meringue without a mixer. You can do it, it just ain’t pretty or efficient.

Oh yeah, look at my new Fig trees. Yes, trees is plural. Lets do a fig-tree dance for a full harvest next summer!!

This was a hoot to open. I think we were all in tears from laughing.

Anyways. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrated this weekend – and enjoy the last of your holiday weekend! If you’re getting a crazy blizzard right now, please stay safe!

Most random present you’ve ever recieved?

Mac or PC? If Mac – iMac or Macbook? I love and far prefer macs – I’ve just never owned one myself since they’re so daarn expensive. I figure this time, though, if I need a new one, it’s go big or go home, right?

ALSO – edited to add – that the pictures of me making the cinnamon rolls, my sister so graciously took for me. I am not magic, nor am I so into my food photography that I set up a tripod and put my camera on timer 😉 (not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t see myself ever getting any baking done if I were to do that 😛 )

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Filed under breakfast, health food, healthy living, recipe

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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)

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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