White Chocolate Peppermint Bark (2 ways)

A few years ago I tried making chocolate peppermint bark and it was a huge hit! It easily fell into my regular holiday treat rotation. I love making it as a gift for others. It’s nice making something tried & true over the holidays, but I wanted to change it up a bit this year. Enter white chocolate peppermint bark.

My first attempt was a bit of a fail. It actually tasted pretty good – but it looked really weird. My second and third attempts turned out well.

If you’re looking for a quick & easy treat and can track down some vegan white chocolate chips – just melt some of those and add a bit of peppermint extract and freeze it. Bam! You’re done! If you have some more time, try one of the two recipes below.

Recipe 1 – White Chocolate Peppermint Bark (the naughty version)

1 cup of cacao butter

1/3 cup of icing sugar

a few drops of peppermint extract

4 candy canes, crushed

Melt your cacao butter on a low setting in a pot on the stove. Once it is completely melted, remove it from heat and add the icing sugar & peppermint extract and stir it. Take half of the crushed candy cane and stir it in. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper and pour the white chocolate mixture in and be sure it is evenly distributed. Pop it in the freezer and add the remaining crushed candy cane after about 10 minutes and gently press it in. Put it back in the freezer for a few hours to completely harden. Once it is solid, take it out and break it into smaller pieces. This has to be stored in the freezer until you are ready to enjoy =)

Recipe 2 – White Chocolate Peppermint Bark (the nicer version)

1 cup of cacao butter

1/4 cup of coconut butter

1/4 cup of cashew butter

2 tbsp of maple syrup

a few drops of peppermint extract

4 candy canes, crushed

Melt your cacao butter on a low setting in a pot on the stove. Once it is completely melted, add in the coconut butter and stir it in. Once this mixture is melted, add the cashew butter and stir it in and melt the entire mixture completely. Add the maple syrup and peppermint extract and half of the crushed candy canes and stir it up. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper and evenly distribute the mixture in the pan. Place it in the freezer for 10 minutes, when it is just starting to harden, add the remaining crushed candy cane and gently press it into the top. Put it back in the freezer for a few hours to completely harden. Once it is solid, take it out and break it into smaller pieces. This has to be stored in the freezer until you are ready to enjoy =)

Giving & Taking

Isn’t that what this time is all about? You give something to the ones you love…. and you get something back.

My parents always made a huge deal out of Christmas growing up. I credit that to why I love this time of year so much (second only to Halloween haha ;p). They had the house looking all lit up Griswold style (no exaggeration!), tons of delicious holiday baking, and presents galore! I used to love giving people gifts and of course enjoyed getting them back. The older I get, the more I get away from this habit. I still tend to buy gifts for my mom and niece and my in-laws, but that’s basically it. I try to make homemade gifts for my friends (the sweet treat variety) and my husband and I have been getting in the habit of using money we would normally spend on buying gifts for each other and donating it instead.

And this year, I did something a little different.

This year I gave some of my time. As I don’t work, I have a lot of free time to volunteer. A few months ago, I started volunteering with the Sunnyvale Community Services. I get up a little early Monday mornings, bike on over to their location and help give out food to those less fortunate. In the afternoons, I sometimes help out accepting donations from groups & individuals and anything else they might need help with. My favourite so far – The Christmas Center.

They started collecting donations in the fall to help those less fortunate in the community. Toys for the kids, books for families, non-perishables to keep stomachs happy over the holidays and small appliances.

I got to help organise the event by wrapping gifts & scheduling appointments for families to come in. Then I got to escort people through the centre to pick out gifts for their families. The majority of people organising the event were volunteers. Just people from the community wanting to help others out.

We even had a local choir group come in and play some holiday music.

What I got  to take? Warm, fuzzy feelings of course! Helping others always makes me feel great. And everyone there was so grateful. Everyone coming through thanked me profusely for being there and helping out. I had lots of hugs and well wishes and blessings. And I even had a teary-eyed husband and father thank me and letting me know that his family would have no Christmas if it weren’t for people like me.

I also feel incredibly grateful. It reminds me of how very fortunate I am. I’m lucky to have a roof over my head (a few of the people I helped weren’t as lucky as me), and food on my table. I always have warm clothes and can afford to buy the things I need. I hope you have the same luxuries too. And if you have a little extra time or money this holiday season – consider using it to help others in your neighbourhood.

Healthy Vegan Friday #26 – Holiday Edition

Good morning world! I hope you are all having a wonderful week. Robin and I are excited to launch the holiday edition of Healthy Vegan Friday.

New to HVF? Check out the info here.

We had some great submissions last week – let’s check out your favs:

Coconut Key Lime Mini Pies from Earthgiven Kitchen:

I tend to go for chocolate when I want a sweet treat, but these tropical pies would certainly cure my sweet tooth. Love the idea of using toasted coconut. These little treats will definitely be making an appearance on my dessert plate in the near future =)

Wild Rice, Spinach & Tempeh Bacon Stuffed Squash from Rock My Vegan Socks:

Glad you seemed to like the sound of this as much as I liked the taste! Although this dish takes some time to make, it’s not very labour intensive.

Creamy Hemp Seed Red Pepper Dip from Health, Balance, Happiness:

This is a great sounding dip. I love dipping my veggies in hummus and guac, but variety is good and I love the sound of this tangy dip.

This week, I’m sharing an old recipe, but one of my favs. I am working on a holiday dessert recipe, but have a few kinks to work out. So I’ll leave you with this dark chocolate holiday bark.

Let’s see your fun holiday-themed food. Link on up & don’t forget to link back. We’ll be looking for more holiday fare next week =)


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Kale Black Bean Bowl

After visiting Bliss Café, I was inspired to recreate their Buddha Bowl. It was just soooo good! I didn’t quite do it justice, BUT, I came up with a pretty tasty bowl that has quickly become one of my go-to favourite meals. This is quick & easy and makes great leftovers.

Kale Black Bean Bowl (makes 4 lunches)

1.5 cups cooked black beans (I cook my own – but canned works too)

1 tsp of turmeric

1 cup of brown rice

2 cups of water or vegetable broth

1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed & torn into bite-sized pieces

1 tbsp of coconut oil

2 heaping tbsp of nutritional yeast

a sprinkle of sea salt

Add the teaspoon of turmeric to your cooked black beans and set aside. Add the rice and 2 cups of water or broth to a medium heat and bring to a bowl. Lower the heat and simmer until cooked. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil on a wok on the stove and add your kale and sautée until it turns bright green. I didn’t let mine wilt as I don’t like it overcooked. Place 1/4 of the rice in a bowl, add 1/4 of the kale & top it off with 1/4 of the beans. Finish it off with 1/4 of the nutritional yeast and sea salt. I portioned the rest of mine between 3 containers for lunches later in the week. It actually tastes great cold too.

As minimal effort is required – it’s a nice lunch to have on a lazy day…

Bliss Café – a Review

I recently talked about my trip earlier this month to Hearst Castle and talked about my dining experiences. I didn’t get a chance to talk about them all and I saved the best for last =)

Terry and I stayed overnight in San Luis Obispo. It is the cutest town ever – I totally fell in love with it =) Not only is it completely adorable, but it has a ton of vegan eats! We checked out Bliss Café.

This has been, to date, one of my favourite dining experience since moving to Northern California. My only regret – not having better quality with my pictures. Ah well.

Terry and I made the trek from our cozy airbnb to the café.  We underestimated how busy downtown SLO (San Luis Obispo) would be on a sleep Sunday morning and weren’t able to find parking right out front as I had originally anticipated. We found some parking around the corner and decided to wind our way around back to the café and were pleasantly surprised to find this in the smack dab middle of town.

This pedestrian walking trail led us right up to the café and a bunch of other cute cafés in town. It made me automatically feel transported away from the hustle and bustle of a city and into a quiet nature oasis. Perfect atmosphere for the AMAZING food.

We started out by splitting this donut. Oh and no, I did not have to use a “cheat” with gluten (my once a month cheat), this bad boy is vegan & gluten free. and it’s heart shaped! Cute & delicious!

Terry tried the Reuben Sandwich and soup of the day (tomato). He really enjoyed the soup. He liked the sandwich overall, great bread with some good toppings – but he wasn’t a fan of the mustard. He said it tasted like normal, mainstream mustard (instead of a grain type like he normally enjoys). His favourite part of the meal was actually the Omega Shakti smoothie he ordered (un-pictured) as the addition of cardamom was a delightful treat for the tastebuds!

I tried the Buddha Bowl and it was divine…

It is a super simple bowl with just rice, black beans & kale, but man oh man, I savoured every last bite. They add spices to the rice and the black beans have herbs. Oh and the kale is sautéed in coconut oil, which is something I haven’t tried yet. And the dressing… oh the dressing. It’s almond nutritional yeast. I have yet to replicate it, so I think I’ll have go back to sample it again ;)

We also enjoyed some of their raw cheezecake for dessert, but we had it to go and I didn’t end up snapping a picture before we gobbled it down stuck in traffic on the way back home (it brought a zen-like feeling to an otherwise stressful event!).

I did get a few pics of the café, they didn’t turn out, but I will share them and hope to go back for better ones in the near future.

If you ever anywhere near San Luis Obispo, I highly recommend this place! The atmosphere is very relaxing, the staff are super friendly and awesome and the food is incredible.

Stay tuned – Wednesday I’ll be back with my version of the Buddha Bowl =)

Bliss Café is located in the heart of San Luis Obispo at 778 Higuera Street. You can find out more info about them here.

Healthy Vegan Friday #25

Hello lovelies! Robin and I hope you had an AMAZING long weekend filled with wonderful company, lots of down time and a ton of great food =) And now that you’ve had some time to get back into the swing of things, we’re hoping to see some recipes.

New to HVF? Check out the deets here.

We had some great submissions last week – here are some of your favs.

Quinoa Masala in Asian Style from Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen:

Very interesting fusion going on here! Love the sound of this protein packed meal.

Roasted Brussels & Squash from Rockmyvegansocks (woot!):

I hope you guys like this – it’s perfect fall, comfort food =)

And 11 Ways to use Blackstrap Molasses from The Taste Space:

I’ve actually only ever used molasses to make baked beans and maybe a dessert. I’ve been meaning to pick some up to be more creative with it and Janet’s post is inspiring!

Ok folks – let’s see what you have in store for us this week. Link up, don’t forget to link back. And have a great weekend!


FYI – it looks like the linky we use will be shut down for part of Saturday for maintenance, it will be back up though!

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Wild Rice, Spinach & Tempeh Bacon Stuffed Squash

This year I had a bit of a hard time deciding what to make for Thanksgiving. Last year I made a delicious sweet potato casserole and wanted something a little different. I’m tempted to eat gluten over the holidays, but I know it makes me feel crappy, so I wanted to avoid it. I started scouring pinterest and blogs to get inspiration.  I specifically searched for vegan thanksgiving mains and when I came across a stuffed squash with bacon – I was a little grossed out. I never liked bacon and I do not try to replicate it. But Terry loves it and the thought kind of stuck with me as it sounded interesting. And stuffing a squash sounded fun! It was a really good Thanksgiving main – it would be great for Christmas too. Or anytime really.

Picture of our Thanksgiving feast

Wild Rice, Spinach & Tempeh Bacon Stuffed Squash (serves 4-8)

1 large butternut squash (or, if like me, you can’t find one – use a medium and a small one)

1.5 cups dried rice (I used a blend of brown & wild and soaked it for a few hours beforehand)

2 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of water

1 large bunch of spinach, washed & de-stemmed

1 8 oz. package of plain tempeh chopped into bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp of coconut aminos

2 tbsp of maple syrup

several drops of liquid smoke

1 tsp of dried garlic

sea salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400. Cut your squash in half lengthwise- try to leave the stem intact for a prettier squash (no big deal if it falls off though). Scoop the seeds from the middle and drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on both inside halves of the squash, season with salt & pepper and rub it in. Place your squash face up in a glass casserole dish (I used my lasagna pan) and add a bit of water to the bottom. Cook the squash for 45 minutes to an hour or more until a fork can be easily inserted into the fleshy parts of the squash.

Once the squash has been cooking for 15 or so minutes, start cooking your rice. I drained & rinsed mine and cooked it in 2 cups of vegetable broth & a cup of water for about 35 minutes until the water had evaporated and it was nice & fluffy.

Prep your spinach. Then heat a wok on medium heat on your stove and add a bit of coconut oil. Then add your tempeh and the remaining ingredients (coconut aminos through salt & pepper), until it is golden brown. I let mine get a little crispy.

Once the squash is done, take it out of the oven and lower the heat to 350. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving about an inch around the skin to use as a boat for the stuffing. Put the flesh in a bowl and mash it up. Add the rice, spinach & tempeh bacon and stir it up. I also added a couple of handfuls of cheddar Daiya cheese and stirred it in. Scoop the stuffing mixture into the squash boat and put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.

Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope you had a great holiday weekend! Though I’m far from family… and from a country that celebrates Thanksgiving in October, I managed to enjoy myself this past weekend.

I started the big day off with a run – the San Jose Turkey Trot. I had trained hard and was hoping to improve my time. My training went great! I managed to work my 3km down from 18 minutes to 17. And I was finishing my 10km in under an hour – my goal was to finish in under an hour (my current 10km best is around 54 minutes). Unfortunately, my body just wasn’t feeling it race day. It happens sometimes and I tried not to be too disappointed. I think a few factors were not taking a rest day at all the week of the race (I normally do) and I did a legs work out just 2 days before the race! Oh and I attempted to donate platelets the afternoon before the race (resulting in a collapased vein :/). The attempted donation was  probably the biggest factor for a slower run and I should have known better. Ah well. I finished at 1 hour 6 minutes – not terrible, but I can do better =)

I figured I may as well make a nice, big feast to enjoy. It was a small, intimate meal which was kind of nice. I was very happy with how the food turned out. Stay tuned for some upcoming recipes!

Orange, cranberry, pecan salad

Homemade cranberries

Garlic-roasted scalloped potatoes

Wild rice, spinach & tempeh bacon stuffed squash

Chocolate Cream Pie

Sunny even got a special meal!

Mmmmmm

My friend Brie joined us for supper and brought one of her current foster dogs

So cute! I thought maybe Sunny could use a little sister, but Terry isn’t so sure ;p

The feast!

And Friday – let me tell you! I did not go anywhere near a store or mall. I actually spent the day hiking with friends – much more pleasant than braving the crowds for a few deals ;p There is just something about being surrounded by nature… it does the body, mind & spirit good.

Beautiful state park

Stopped for lunch with a view

Almost halfway into the 13 mile hike – still feeling pretty great

Found lots of little streams along the way

Finished the hike with a coastal view

Healthy Vegan Friday #24 – Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Hope your bellies were filled with delicious food yesterday (or will be at some point this weekend!). Haven’t had enough holiday food yet? Fret not – the Thanksgiving Edition is here! Share all your awesome-sauce vegan Thanksgiving recipes with us. Robin and I are excited to see what you share =)

If you are new to HVF – check out the details here.

Let’s check out your fav recipes from last week (thanksgiving themed of course!).

Vegetable Pot Pie from Gluten Free SCD and Vegan:

OMG isn’t this mouthwatering?? This actually came quite close to being my thanksgiving entrée, but it has mushrooms and our dinner guest doesn’t really like them. But I’m totally just going to make this sometime in the next week anyway. YUM. Love how the crust sounds pretty easy to make – a must with my baking failures.

Vegan Apple Crumble from Urban Naturale:

Oh this is such the perfect thanksgiving dessert. It’s warm and comforting… and this version is much healthier than the one I grew up enjoying.

Chocolate Pumpkin Pancakes from Strength & Sunshine:

 

How perfect looking are these pancakes?! Mine always look a little scary and deformed. And I tend to throw chocolate chips in mine but never have them on hand, I love the idea of adding cocoa powder. This would be a great post-thanksgiving breakfast, or actually, a great dessert =)

This week I’m keeping with the theme and sharing my Roasted Brussels and Squash.

Whether you are spending time with family, or like me, far away but still finding ways to enjoy & celebrate the holiday, I hope you have things to be thankful for.

Link on up friends! Don’t forget to link back and have a great weekend =)


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Roasted Brussels & Squash

There is a certain restaurant in Palo Alto, California that I really like. They have an everything menu, a gluten-free menu & a vegan menu. It really makes life so much easier =) They have a ton of, what my husband calls, “Kimmy-friendly” eats and it’s not a far trek from where we live. I made fun drink by reproducing their chia water. And now I’ve been inspired to recreate this dish and make it into a Thanksgiving Stellar Side.

Roasted Brussels & Squash (serves 6-8 as a side)

1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded & chopped into bite-size pieces (my squash probably weighed between 1-2 pounds)

4 cups of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed

2-4 tbsp of olive oil (coconut would work well too!)

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 375 and toss your prepared squash in an oven-safe dish. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt & pepper and place it in the oven. While your squash is roasting, trim your brussels and place them in another oven-safe dish, adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt & pepper. Once the squash has cooked for 15 minutes, add your brussels sprouts and continue cooking (stirring once or twice) for another 40 minutes, until both squash & brussels come out tender. Allow them to cool. Once they cooled to room temperature, I added the brussels sprouts to the dish with the squash and added the cranberries and stirred it up. This is a pretty plain recipe – feel free to dress it up with a nice dressing or some more herbs. I drizzled some balsamic vinegar on mine for a little more oomph.

This is a fantastic side for a feast! It could also work as a main on it’s own, or adding some cooked chickpeas (yum!). Either way, it makes a great addition to the table.

I hope you have a super fantastic Thanksgiving =) I will spending the morning running a 10km Turkey Trot before I cook up a storm for a small, intimate gathering.

What are your plans?

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