Holiday Treats

Happy Holidays! Yes, I’m an enforcer of the ‘Happy Holidays’ because during this time of year it’s time for many different celebrations, not just Christian-based ones. If you say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Eid Mubarak or Happy Solstice I will repeat with enthusiasm; but because I don’t know your beliefs I stick with Happy Holidays. Now that the political cat is out of the correction bag lets talk about food, the tension equalizer.

I do not have a recipe for  you today because the lighting in my kitchen has been on constant blah for 2 weeks with the multitude of storms, if you are however looking for an amazing recipe that you can get together for gifts in the next few days may I suggest these caramels? I followed the recipe exactly and I am sure I nailed them!

Whiskey Salted-CarmelsIf that is too much work for you I understand, while the caramels take about 25 minutes of stove-top work, cutting and wrapping them can added extra minutes to what you already might not have time for. So my second suggestion is to make some bark. Nothing can be easier than melting some chocolate, added crushed cookies, candy canes, dried fruit and nuts or cereal and topping off with more chocolate, letting cool breaking it up and voila! Beautiful quick treats for friends and family. I made some as well, I started with 300g of dark chocolate, topped with pretzel sticks, drizzled with melted peanut-butter, topped with 300g milk chocolate and then broken pretzel pieces. It couldn’t have been easier or more delicious.

Dark and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel BarkFinally if you are gifting, the wrapping really makes your already awesome treats stand out. I recently bought the book Vegan Food Gifts, which has a ton of beautiful and easy packaging suggestions, complete with tags and embellishments. The ones below I created by making a tube with cellophane, folding in half and adding the bark to one side and the caramels on the other and then tying with a string. Easy-peasy!

Big and Little PackagesI hope the holiday season brings you much joy and time with family and friends. See you all in the New Year with more recipes and anecdotes!

 

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Bulwarks’s Limited Edition Winter Cider

Today I finished up all my major Christmas shopping, now I only have a few little things to pick up to finish up gifts; humble-bragging for the win.  I did a lot of online shopping this year and (admittedly) more of it ended up being for myself than for others. I always have the best intentions of spending frugally over the buying season but then the ‘I love giving’ feeling gets to me plus I get so tempted with all the sales and holiday products that I splurge on myself as well. Don’t tell my mother, she is a Christmas purest, never buy for yourself at this time of the year. I can hear her now…what if someone was going to surprise you with this, that or the other-thing you like? But I’m over here like ooohhaii can I get a fancy latte with that please…thanks.

IMG_3367I love adding a bit of the homemade into the season, and if I were more organized I would make all my gifts I give. Here’s the thing, making stuff on a deadline and making it perfect is wayyy stressful and often more expensive than just buying something within your budget that your peeps want. It’s a sad reality I learned the hard way. It doesn’t mean you can’t make fabulous homemade gifts because you totally can, but when you are as OCD as me, sometimes it better for everyone if you just shop. I do have baking and candy making planned out for the coming weeks for a few people I know would totally enjoy some sweet treats more than any product I could buy them. Pick your battles.

I feel like a mini-superhero today because this Christmas grouch even got the tree out of the basement and up (Grouch whispers…it only has 3 decorations on it due to the fact I have no clue where our decorations are packed and have no will to play jenga with my storage…. but it’s up!). I also may have written/signed about 50 cards 10 of which will hopefully be sent out in the mail tomorrow.

IMG_3369Bulwarks’s Limited Edition Winter Cider

After this busy day I wanted to chill out with a holiday libation and found this curious addition to the NSLC. Bulwark’s brand cider is a local company that also produces Stutz and they are currently selling a limited edition winter cider which is the perfect thing to relax with after a trip to the mall.

The holiday version seems sweeter than their regular apple cider and I’m not sure if that is due to the mulling spices they use to flavour it, or just because they have intentionally made it less dry. I usually like a cider to be drier but the sweetness complements the spice well and really does bring on the holiday cheer. Because it is sweeter it tastes more apple-y and really reminds me of apple brandy.

The cider seemed less carbonated to me than its original version, but again I don’t mind, it tastes like a completely different product. As far as I know, you can only buy these in individual bottles (500mls) for under $5 a bottle. I chilled mine well before serving but you could serve this warm by gently heating it over the stove. Be careful not to bring to a boil otherwise the alcohol will evaporate. At 7% it has a nice kick and while I did enjoy this holiday beverage, one was definitely enough. Next up I think I’m going to try making a winter sangria with a buttery California chardonnay, this cider and loads of apples.

If you like sweeter drinks or just want to try a beer alternative, or even if you are just a huge cider fan this is definitely worth checking out. Get it while you can, as it won’t be around for long!

Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

I’m hanging onto the ends of Summer and resisting the change in weather even though it is happening  There is a crispness in the air in the mornings and nights, everyone is sleeping better but when the sun is out people are still bustling in the city .In the Fall, our city population almost doubles because we are a university town. It’s nice to see loads of new people, and local businesses get a nice monetary push.

Today however is neither Summer or Fall but a Nova Scotia drab and grey day. Days like this I just want to cuddle up and binge watch TV series, maybe with a cute boy, a cuddly dog or two and some popcorn.

My resistance all Summer long to turn on the oven is waning, yesterday it actually was on for about 10 minutes to finish up this perfect caramel corn. I found a recipe online for caramel corn in the microwave by A Spicy Perspective (original recipe here). I really wanted to make it but I had two problems, I didn’t have a large paper grocery bag, and I also don’t own a big microwave. I adapted it, which meant I needed to turn on the oven, but I can assure you it was worth it. My version is popped in coconut oil on the stove top, I didn’t have cashews so I toasted some coconut, and added extra salt for that sweet and salty taste of Fall.  I really love all the textures and flavours combined together in this caramel corn. It’s the perfect thing to make when all the new seasons of your favorite show are starting up at the end of this month.

Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

adapted from A Spicy Perspective’s Microwave Caramel Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 2-3 tbs organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1+ 1/2 cups organic coconut flakes toasted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbs salted butter
  • 3 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tbs coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • sea salt to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a heavy bottomed large stock pot heat 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil over medium high heat. Add three kernels of corn and wait for all three to pop. Remove the popped corn from the pot and add the 1/2 cup of kernels remaining. Since my pot set has metal covers I use a tea towel to wrap on the top, opening to guard my hands. Popping corn produces a lot steam and you can easily burn yourself if you let the lid fly up with no protection. Once the new kernels start to pop I shake the pot around so no kernel get burned. You will usually be able to tell there isn’t a lot of whole kernels left as the popping slows down. Remove popcorn from heat and place in a large ceramic or metal mixing bowl.

Stove Top Popcorn

Using a medium-sized non-stick pan, heat over medium and add the coconut. Use a wooden spoon to keep the coconut moving. It will only take a few moments to toast. Once it’s as even as you can get it, empty the coconut unto the popcorn.

Toasted Coconut

Prepare a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Salted Caramel in the Making

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl add, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup vanilla, salt. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, then microwave another 2 minutes, until boiling. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave, and  immediately stir in the baking soda until the caramel changes colour.

Caramel Collage

Quickly pour caramel unto the popped corn and coconut. I used a tea towel to support one side of the bowl, added a third of caramel at a time and stirred to popcorn to try to make it as evenly coated as possible. 

Stir it up

Turn caramel corn onto the parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

Ready Set Bake

Bake for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir and let cool at room temperature for about an hour.

Salty and Sweet

Store in air tight containers, and be sure to let cool completely before storing.

Hot Glazed Buns with Chia Seeds and Coconut Milk

Happy Easter everyone! I hope all of you are enjoying some family time, a little chocolate and a bunch of food.

This time last year I remember doing the exact same thing – scrambling to make something to bring to Easter dinner, l took photos whilst baking, praying that the rolls I was making would turn out and that my in-laws (for lack of a better descriptor) would not come too early otherwise the rolls would be under-cooked, or at least too hot to handle.

This year, I had it in my head I needed to make hot crossed buns and after going grocery shopping yesterday morning, I was ready to get them made and photographed and published on time, no stress. One huge problem, I forgot oranges and lemons. 

My boyfriend always being the calm in the storm, reminded me that as we were going to the movies later that night we could grab some from the boutique market downtown before hitting up the theater  Half my problem was solved but this morning I’m back into the Holiday baking rampage with a side of I need to make stuff for my lunches for the week, and a pinch of blog…blog, I can’t forget the blog.

Vegan Hot Glazed Buns

To make this recipe vegan as I’ve written it you need to use an egg replacer. If you would like to use a powdered one you can, although I haven’t had much luck with them. I used an egg-replacer made from chia seeds. This of course will change the way the hot cross buns look, but I’m ok with that if you are.

To make a chia egg-replacer the ratio is 1:3 chia seeds to liquid. I used the remaining coconut milk which was about 7 tablespoon and added 2+1/2 tablespoon of chia seeds to make up the difference of 2 eggs plus one egg yolk. Water is generally recommended for this, but I figured it might need additional fat to produce a soft and airy sweet bun.

These buns are perfectly soft, just sweet enough, very moist and airy and would be great for a sweet breakfast with tea or as part of an Easter Brunch. Better late than never I guess.

Hot un-Crossed Bun

 Hot Glazed Buns with Chia Seeds and Coconut Milk

adapted from a recipe found on Epicurious.com

  • 1 cup canned coconut milk, warmed
  • 5 tsp of yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of allspice
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs of vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe of chia egg replacer (enough for 2+1/2 eggs eggs)
  • 1 cup of raisins (or currants)
  • 1 tbs of each orange and lemon zest

basting

  • 1/4 cup coconut/almond or soy milk from a tetra pack
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

icing

  • any left over coconut milk basting liquid
  • juice from 1/2 of an orange
  • 1 tbs orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4-1 cup of icing sugar

Method

Make your chia seed egg replacement by mixing the coconut milk or water and chia seeds in the ratio described above and set aside.

Chia Seed Egg Replacer

Measure out 1 cup of coconut milk and put in a microwave safe dish and heat for about 30 seconds until slightly warmer than room temperature.

In a medium-sized bowl add milk, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir well and leave for 5 minutes to froth.

In a separate large mixing bowl, sift flour, and add the sugar salt, allspice, and cinnamon and stir to combine.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in all the vegetable oil, the chia seed egg and the yeast/milk mixture. Mix with a spoon first but I switched to my hand about half way through. It may feel slight dry, almost like a pastry and that is fine but if it’s too dry you may add a few tablespoons of water or milk. Add raisins/currants and work into the dough by kneading. Once the dough has come together, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm space for one and a half hours. You could also leave it to rise overnight.

Before the Rise

Once the dough has doubled in size, split it in half and shape each half into a long log. You want to get twelve buns out of each log so I suggest cutting each log in half first then making your divisions so you get six rolls for each half log. It will also give you a change to even out the log again before cutting it.

Sweet Dough Log

Prepare two baking tins with cooking spray or margarine  Using your hands shape each dough section into a smooth ball and place in the pan and repeat. Make sure there is a bit of space between each as once they rise and cook again they will crowd the dish. Cover and let rise for forty-five minutes.

Room to Rise

Preheat your oven to 400 degree and make the basting liquid by combing coconut/almond/soy milk, cinnamon and sugar and brush on the tops of the tops of the rolls. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the side and tops become brown. If you are baking both at a time make sure to rotate (top to bottom and side to side) the pans at the half way mark.

Remove from the oven and let rest while you make the icing/glaze.

In a small bowl combine any left over basting liquid, half of an oranges juice, almond extract, orange zest and icing sugar. Use a basting brush to generously coat the warm rolls, leave to cool.

All Together Now

GoodBye 2012 – Hello New Year!

I wanted to make a year in review post because this last year has been so full of unexpected ups and downs. I have never felt more excited to celebrate on New Years Eve more than I have this year and, I’m sick. If it wasn’t already obvious, AJ and I are staying home this year, as we speak I’m eating cold pizza and writing post. None of this matters to me though. I am desperately missing some pretty fabulous people tonight, however, I’m happy, (for all intents and purposes) healthy and have people/animals who love me, a good job and a roof over my head. No matter how I celebrate tonight, I won’t be any more ready for 2013. Bring it on!

Family Photo taken by Josh Szeto

My Most Memorable Moments of 2012:

  • I turned 29 years old, celebrated 14 years of being a vegetarian and 4 years of being a blogger!
  • Ate at The Bicycle Theif (delish!)
  • Mom’s Sixtieth Birthday celebrations.
  • Attending my friends Angela and Cino wedding; sweetest nuptials for the sweetest couple.
  • Attended a beautiful James Bond themed wedding as a plus one.
  • I attending the Port of Wines Festival for the first time. You can read about my experience here.
  • Two dear friends  of ours each had a healthy baby boy. They are probably the cutest boys I have ever seen, you know who you are!
  • A friend of mine passed away too soon.
  • Another took an opportunity that couldn’t be put refused and moved away.
  • Finally got family pictures done of AJ, myself and the dogs, a huge thanks to the lovely and talented Josh Szeto!
  • Having the best Christmas yet by combining both of our family celebrations.

IMG_7312

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2012:

Now that I’ve reminisced it’s time to do some forward thinking for the year ahead.

Photo Sourced from Fry Bread White Bread – Click to view site!

What I’m looking forward to in 2013:

  • A road trip to Montreal to see Lady Gaga
  • Getting to celebrate more Birthdays and Holidays with my family and friends
  • The Walking Dead to come back and Game of Thrones to start
  •  Making arrangements to take a trip to the UK
  • Less stress
  • More Creativity

What I want to change in 2013:

The last two years has really been about others for me,  and I feel that 2013 is my year to take somethings back I always make this resolution but I want to take care of my health, get a few massages and facials, eat well, work-out and in general make turning 30 my year to shine!

What do you have planned for 2013?