I did it! I baked my way through the whole year. The final challenge for Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Baking is peppermint. I couldn’t come up with a truly baked food that involves peppermint, or even one that would be improved by the addition of peppermint, so I went the sorta cheater route and made this peppermint bark. I put some peppermint sticks in a sandwich bag and beat the hell out of them with the end of my rolling pin. Then I melted a 3 oz bar of 70% cacao chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. I poured the chocolate into a pan covered with parchment paper and quickly sprinkled the smaller peppermint pieces onto the chocolate. Let it cool for a few hours in the fridge and it’s peppermint bark o’clock. The dark chocolate and peppermint go really well together. Robbie gives it his picky sweets eater seal of approval.
December 31, 2012 by Angie
December 28, 2012 by Angie
I’ve been making these cute little crocheted snowflakes as Christmas ornaments. They work up really quickly and I think they’re so sweet and quaint and homey. I used this pattern from Red Heart that I found on Ravelry.com.
Here’s one hanging on our already dying Christmas tree. I used some white Vanna’s Choice 4 weight yarn and an E/3.5 mm crochet hook.
December 28, 2012 by Angie
Cross stitch is a supposedly fun thing I’ll (probably) never do again. I really like the look of it but I hate threading the needle so to avoid doing that so often I kept trying to use really long pieces of thread which got tangled and knotted and caused me great sadness. I was also trying to re-watch seasons one and two of Downton Abbey while I was cross stitching so it became less a fun craft and more a mean, cruel thing that kept me from devoting my full attention to the Crawleys. I’m really happy with the finished project though so maybe I’ll feel up to doing another one after I’ve had a bit of a break.
The finished design – a Christmas gift for our friends who got married in February.
Designing it was the most fun. I used an alphabet generator I found online to get the words charted out. Then I printed this special graph paper for my aida cloth and drew the marks for the words. I added the marks for the ornaments which I got from a pattern on the Subversive Cross Stitch website (where I bought my aida cloth and thread). It took two tries to get everything centered correctly but that part was fun so I didn’t mind.
Personalized cross stitch design
Once the cross stitch part was finished, I ironed the cloth and followed these instructions to frame it. This part was kinda fun too.
All framed up in a shiny red frame for Christmas.
December 27, 2012 by Angie
The challenge for Week 51 of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge was to bake a traditional Christmas dessert from another country. I chose this Bavarian apple torte. I’m not sure how authentic it is but this recipe, and similar variations, are quite popular online so I went for it. I followed the recipe except I used just two apples instead of four. Frankly, I was tired of peeling and slicing apples. I had enough to cover the top completely with a pretty thick layer so I think I got the desired effect.
I made it at my parents’ house and, between the four of us, we ate the whole thing in two days. I thought it tasted awesome and it looks very fancy for the amount of time and effort I put into it. I would definitely make it again.
December 17, 2012 by Angie
Week 50 of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is plating. Only two challenges left! I made a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache for my mom’s birthday. I used the reliably delicious recipe for basic chocolate cupcakes and the chocolate ganache used for lots of things from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I had never made it as a cake before but found it was just the same except I didn’t need to bake it for quite as long as the instructions said – it started to smell like something might be burning at about 28 minutes.
I baked it in a springform pan, took the edges of the pan off, then spread the ganache on the top and sides, and decorated with m&ms. The cake and ganache are vegan but the m&ms are not so you could decorate with fruit instead to keep it dairy-free. For added “plating” effect, and to get it across the state without a chocolate mishap, I put it in my fancy cake carrier. Mom and Dad report they like the cake. They seemed particularly impressed with the chocolate ganache topping.
December 12, 2012 by Angie
Book: Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way
Author: Chloe Coscarelli
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recently checked out Chloe Coscarelli’s new book Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way from my public library. I’m a fan of her blog and heard good things about this cookbook so I dove in and made several recipes over two weeks. Here’s a rundown of the recipes I tested.
Penne alla Vodka with the Best Garlic Bread in the World: This was my favorite. I made the garlic bread twice – once for our omnivorous friends to go with a stew I made. Everybody loved it. The Penne alla Vodka was so good too. I made it with Dreamfields penne for fewer carbs. The sauce was excellent and was possibly even better the next day. It’s fast so it could be a weeknight meal. Using the hand blender to blend the cashews and water together made it really easy and the cleanup was pretty painless that way too.
The Christmas Kitty salt shaker presides over the delicious garlic bread.
Mongolian BBQ Seitan: This one was kind of a miss. It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t make the seitan part again. The sauce was good although I’d made something very similar on my own before out of ingredients in my fridge so it was nothing revolutionary. Her seitan recipe from the back of the book wasn’t great. I had never made seitan before but I followed the directions perfectly. The only thing that might be user error is how I sliced it. I tried to slice it thin but it was still kinda chunky. If I had used a vegetable peeler to shave the seitan that might have resulted in a better texture. It was on the rubbery side but it also didn’t taste like much even though it cooked in a tasty soy sauce/vegetable broth for over an hour.
Tomato-Basil Bisque: Robbie said it was the best tomato soup he’s ever had and he’s a tomato soup connoisseur. I have to agree with him. I’m kinda picky about tomato soup and sometimes find it a bit gross but this one was excellent. The recipe is easy – roughly chop the vegetables, roast them, then combine everything in a stock pot and use the hand blender to get it to the right, smooth consistency. I think this would be a much bigger hassle if you had to pour it in batches into a blender as the recipe suggests. Hand blender is the way to go!
Fettuccine Alfredo: Another very easy weeknight recipe. I sauteed some zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, baby carrots, and cauliflower in vegan margarine to go with it. I also used Dreamfields linguine instead of real fettuccine to make it healthier/low carb. It’s creamy and delicious like real Fettuccine Alfredo but I didn’t feel like I needed to take cholesterol medication after I ate it. I have leftovers I’m looking forward to for lunch.
Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese: I made the stovetop version of this recipe from her blog. It’s identical up until the point where you sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake it. It’s fast and tasty but definitely not my favorite vegan macaroni and cheese recipe.
Overall, I give the book four out of five stars. I deducted a star mostly because it’s light on the photos. There are no photos at all of several of the recipes which is kinda lame, in my opinion. I read a lot of blogs and love that I can see photos of every finished dish and often step by step photos for the recipes I make. She clearly hired a food photographer for this book and has included several photos of herself so I don’t see why there can’t be at least one color photo for each recipe. We need to know how the finished product is supposed to look! Also, the index is not great.
Everything I tried was a great success except for the Mongolian BBQ Seitan. Now that I’m the proud owner of a bag of vital wheat gluten, I’ll be trying out other seitan recipes and would happily use her Mongolian BBQ sauce/stir fry idea to go with it once I find one we like. She explains everything clearly so it’s not difficult to follow the directions and get the same results in your kitchen. She also uses fairly “normal” ingredients that I’m able to get at my grocery store. The only thing she called for that I’ve never seen before is canned lentils. Only dried lentils ’round these parts. Another thing I like is how she names her recipes so arrogantly – “Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese” and “Best Garlic Bread in the World”. She’s the cocky rapper of vegan chefs.
December 10, 2012 by Angie
We flew into Denver on a Friday and were welcomed by beautiful, cold weather. We stayed in Uptown/Downtown Denver at the Warwick Denver Hotel. The parking and breakfast situations there were horrifically priced but other than that it’s a great hotel. Really good and central location, clean, warm, quiet, and we both noticed the elevators there are crazy fast. Here’s a photo of the cozy fireplace in the lobby.
The coolest part is probably the heated rooftop pool.
On Day 1 we walked around the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall and went to the Yard House there. We love the Gardein dishes they make and they had a lot of local beers so it was a good call. Later we went to Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Company.
Robbie enjoying a Mile HIPA at Wynkoop Brewing Company
We made one more stop at Mellow Mushroom on our way back to the hotel. It’s one of the cooler Mellow Mushrooms I’ve been to with a modern, futuristic 60’s look instead of the psychedelic style most of the restaurants have.
We started Day 2 with brunch at Watercourse Foods. I really liked my omelet. I also liked that they clearly marked on the menu which items contain nuts. Thank you for not poisoning me on my vacation, Denver!
While we were eating breakfast it started snowing! Our waiter said it didn’t qualify as real snow but not-rain was falling from the sky so we were pretty stoked. Looks like snow on this dog to me!
It snowed a little on this dog.
Later we walked through the 16th street mall and it really started to snow then. We snuck into H&M so Robbie could buy some gloves. For lunch, we walked to Rock Bottom Brewery where we had a huge, very tasty plate of nachos and Robbie tried a couple of their beers. By the time we got back to our hotel there was a blanket of snow on everything outside.
Snowy view from our hotel balcony.
Just to illustrate how cold it was, here are photos of two very bundled and layered Floridians.
It was tights-under-the-jeans-cold.
Robbie looks a little scary in his snow day gear.
For dinner, we walked to an awesome vegetarian restaurant called City O’ City. I ordered the flu buster hot toddy. It was my first ever hot toddy. I am now a big fan of the drink as this was delicious.
Flu Buster Hot Toddy at City O’ City
Robbie ordered the City O’ Burger which came with vegan Big Mac style special sauce. I didn’t get a good photo of it but he was in love. He has mentioned the special sauce every couple of days ever since. I got the pretzel-crusted tofu which also featured a noteworthy and unique caperberry sauce. It was my favorite meal of the trip.
We had a bad habit of going to sleep early and waking up around 5:00 am hungry. I think it had a lot to do with the time zone difference and that we just changed the clocks back that week. I’m going to mostly blame it on the sun abandoning Denver around 4:30 pm everyday. On Sunday, we managed to hold out until 11:00 am when Jonesy’s Eat Bar opened so that we could enjoy the bottomless mimosa brunch there. We had a great time at that restaurant and the food was really good too.
Posing with my bottomless mimosa at Jonesy’s Eat Bar
We were without a car but our friends Lauren and Ryan were kind enough to pick us up from our hotel for a trip to Boulder on Sunday. We went to Rueben’s Burger Bistro for lunch where I had the best cherry coke of my life – local cherry whiskey mixed with Diet Coke. Robbie had some special beers too and we split the black bean eggrolls which were also really good. We walked around some more and ended up at Centro Latin Kitchen during Happy Hour. Robbie got to have a homebrewed beer there that was made in the chef’s garage. You can’t get any more local than that. Lauren and I enjoyed our $2 Cuba Libres. We couldn’t pass up the fancy manchego-chimichurri verde fries. Robbie says they are in the top three fries he’s ever had so that’s quite an endorsement.
Next we continued to bar hop on foot. It was so cold that day but we had a great time. We went to the Pearl Street Pub & Cellar where people were kissing this bison thing on the wall. I’m not clear on the reason for that.
We continued on to the Walnut Brewery where Robbie tried their GFYIPA and Lauren and Ryan had their giant pretzels. The last stop was the Sundown Saloon which was really fun. It’s a laid-back bar with pool, darts, and my favorite bar game – tabletop shuffleboard.
On Monday we got up early for our Rocky Mountain National Park tour which you can read all about here. I’m really glad there are services like this tour because it would have been a shame to miss out on all that nature just because we were too scared of driving in the snow. After our tour we went to dinner with Lauren and Ryan in Denver at the Falling Rock Tap House. Robbie and I split a house-made veggie burger which was quite good.
Tuesday was our last day. 🙁 We went back to City O’ City for breakfast. It’s a sister restaurant to Watercourse Foods so the breakfast was similar but that’s not a bad thing because both places are delicious. After breakfast we packed everything up at the hotel and left our bags with the staff while we killed some time at one last restaurant/brewery, the Vine Street Pub & Brewery. It’s a really cute place with knowledgeable, helpful waiters (this restaurant also protected me from potential nut-induced death), good food, and beers brewed on site. After lunch it was time to say goodbye to Denver and take a taxi back to the airport. We had enough time for one more drink at the Rock Bottom Brewery in the airport.
It was a fantastic trip and I really feel like we made the most of it and saw and did and drank and ate a lot. It’s really not a bad flight when you fly nonstop like we did so I hope we’ll get to go back soon and see more. Here’s a shot of Robbie’s craft beer loot – a piece of Colorado to enjoy at home.
The fruit of the Colorado Beer Pilgrimage
December 3, 2012 by Angie
Week 49 of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is fudge. I made this vegan chocolate cashew fudge from The Joy of Vegan Baking. It’s delicious and very similar to “real” fudge. It’s rich, sweet, creamy and has that smooth “mouthfeel” just like butter and evaporated milk fudge.
It makes a lot!
So much fudge.
The recipe is easy to make even with my makeshift double boiler situation. The hardest part was slicing the very cold fudge into manageable pieces straight out of the refrigerator.
A fudge chunk.
December 1, 2012 by Angie
My first stuffed animal is complete! Hot damn, did I struggle with sewing this little guy together and hiding all the yarn ends. This was my first time crocheting anything that wasn’t a hat or some variation of a square – scarf, purse, granny square blanket, what have you. He’s a little derpy but he’s mine and he’s finished and I’m proud.
Herpin’ and derpin’ in front of the Christmas tree.
I followed this pattern I got on a free leaflet at Michaels. Reindeer buddy is made out of Loops & Threads Impeccable medium 4 weight yarn in Soft Taupe and Chocolate. It didn’t take much yarn – I have plenty of both colors left over. I used a G size/4mm crochet hook.