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Merry Christmas!

Vegan Hot ChocolateHi everyone,
I would just like to make a post dedicated to sincerely wishing my readership a very merry Christmas (or happy holidays, if you prefer)! Thank you all for following my blog–I appreciate your readership more than I can express in words!

In honor of today, I am sharing the following Christmas/winter playlist and some handpicked related articles below from my favorite places on the internet (I’ve also included some of my recipes for your reference).

If you have a quiet moment this holiday, feel free to check them out if you’re interested in reading about what’s usually on my mind during the Christmas season (and all year, really–yummy food and world peace are always relevant in my book).

I hope your holidays are filled with love and light, and I wish you and your families all the best for the upcoming new year.

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15 DIY Vegan Foodie Gifts

15 Last-Minute DIY Foodie Gifts (That Your Friends Actually Want)

The holidays are upon us, and the window for finding gifts is quickly closing. Rushing to a busy mall is the worst thing to do right now. At the last minute, sometimes you start hallucinating and any DIY gift may sound appealing, but let’s skip the fruitcake and chocolate-covered pretzels, shall we?
YES VEGAN NUTELLA FROM LESLEYHere’s my handpicked list of thoughtful DIY vegan foodie gifts for your loved ones. These gifts won’t break the bank and most of them can be put together in an hour or two, with a few exceptions (gifts that take more than two hours are noted below).

  1. Homemade vegan Nutella: Last year, one of my best friends (Lesley, who runs the awesome Crafts and Magicks blog) made batches of vegan Nutella for me and our other vegan buddies. This is at the top of my list because Nutella is something that I personally missed from my childhood, and receiving a homemade vegan version was one of the most thoughtful and lovely gifts I’ve ever gotten. Always Order Dessert and Chocolate-Covered Katie have recipes for vegan Nutella from scratch.
  2. Caramel sauce: Caramel is another luxury that is taken for granted in the non-vegan world. Vegan caramel is hard to come by, so a bottle of this caramel sauce would be much appreciated by any vegan with a sweet tooth. I definitely recommend Oh Ladycakes’ caramel sauce recipe–I have tried it and gotten great results. It’s gorgeous stored in a bottle, to be drizzled in hot chocolate, or on pancakes or waffles for breakfast on Christmas morning.
  3. Flavored sugars and salts: I love this idea SO much. High Walls Blog has instructions to make rose salt, Mexican cocoa and lavender sugar as gifts. Presented in little glass jars or containers, these are truly elegant edibles that will get used.
  4. Brownies in a jar: Chocolate is a no-fail in my book. Check out Vegan Richa’s vegan brownie mix in a jar recipe. The post also includes instructions for single-serve brownies in a jar, which I think is genius.
  5. Homemade hot cocoa mix: A classic edible gift–check out Oh She Glows’ meltable hot chocolate discs. Last year, I made this candy cane hot cocoa mix from the Free People blog. My friends said the mix was too pretty to drink, but they drank it and enjoyed it anyway. Tehee.
  6. Chocolate bark: Beautiful, simple and customizable. Dark chocolate or rice milk chocolate both work, depending on your preference. Try this fruity chocolate bark recipe from Love and Olive Oil, or my berry nut chocolate bark recipe.
  7. Candied citrus peels: These make nice gifts for pen pals or relatives who live far away. Fresh Love Daily has a recipe for candied orange peels that can be made in an hour and a half. I would dip them in chocolate to make them even better.
  8. Truffles: Although these treats sound fancy, truffles really aren’t that hard to put together. Impress your friends with this decadent vegan truffle recipe from Inhabitat.com. I’ve made these before, and they aren’t hard, but they require some time (about three hours). If you don’t have that much time, my Harry-Potter themed snitch truffles take about an hour.
  9. Candy bars: Candy bars are another luxury that I don’t eat on the regular, because their vegan availability is limited or pricey. Go Max Go makes vegan candy bars (available at Whole Foods or other health food stores), but for homemade vegan candy bars, Cara from the Fork and Beans blog is definitely the expert. She created several vegan candy bar recipes for Halloween, but they could just as easily be used as Christmas gifts. I would recommend her Kit Kat bars, no-bake Twix bars, and peanut butter cups–all of which are vegan, gluten-free, and can come together in about an hour or less! She also has a pretty sweet recipe for vegan candy cane kisses, if you can get your hands on some vegan white chocolate.
  10. Flavored syrups: This is a gift for coffee-lovers who like to make their own drinks at home. Annie’s Eats has a recipe guide to make four different kinds of DIY flavored syrup, without the high-fructose corn syrup: vanilla, raspberry, coconut and caramel. The last recipe calls for caramel sauce–I would use Oh Ladycakes’ caramel sauce.
  11. Snowball cookies: Also known as Mexican wedding cookies, these are fun and adorable cookies that will melt in your mouth. Check out Chocolate-Covered Katie’s recipe.
  12. Pesto: Combined with a package of dry pasta, a fresh baguette, or by itself, pesto makes a good savory gift. There are many ways to make vegan pesto. For guidance and inspiration, take a look at Hell Yeah It’s Vegan’s walnut basil pesto, or Food52’s simple vegan pesto.
  13. Indoor herb garden: Besides the vegan Nutella, this is probably my favorite idea on this list. I seriously need to make myself one of these…I can’t count how many times I have wistfully wished for fresh herbs within my reach while cooking (once, in a poorly planned phở adventure, I went to six stores in search of fresh basil–NEVER AGAIN). Design Sponge has a tutorial for a clean and simple herb garden in a wooden box. For a more eclectic look, try re-using tea tins, as shown in this guide from Canadian House and Home.
  14. Chai tea mix: Pair a tea mix with a good book and you’ve got the gift of a relaxing afternoon. My New Roots has a masala chai tea concentrate mix that would be gorgeous wrapped up in a cheesecloth bag or a small jar. Include instructions with your gift.
  15. Herb-infused olive oil: Herb-infused oils can serve as kitchen decor and open up more possibilities in cooking. The Free People blog has a guide to make this gift in two hours, with three flavor infusion ideas.

I hope you are enjoying the holidays with your family! Have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year 🙂 Please let me know what posts you would like to see on my blog in the upcoming new year with a comment below!

Smiling Moose Review | The Broccoli Bulletin

Smiling Moose Deli | sandwiches + soup + studying

Last December, I adopted College Park’s Smiling Moose Deli as my study abode for an afternoon. At first, I came to grab food, but when I realized that they had free wifi and outlets available, I set up my materials and wrote my final paper there. The place offered a nice, warm atmosphere for studying and several vegan options to choose from. I ended up ordering a few dishes to keep myself satiated while working.

This place is very clear about labels and friendly about answering questions. Any of the vegetarian dishes can be ordered vegan if you ask them to hold the dairy products. Here’s my full review, originally published on The Shorthorn, UT Arlington’s student news website, published on October 2, 2013.

Before closing, they offered me free coffee (plus soymilk!) since it was the end of the day. Sweet. I had other study plans that night, so the caffeine came in handy.

Pictured above: Build-Your-Own salad, the Veggie Mo, and Vegan Vegetable Soup. The soup was hearty, and the sandwich was filling, but it was not my favorite. I loved the salad I had a few weeks ago–I tend not to order salads, but I was really craving fresh veggies and this hit the spot. I loaded it with all the toppings I could think of (they do not charge extra for extra toppings). College Park has several other vegan options too–check out my reviews here.

Good luck with finals! Load up on healthy snacks! 😉

Chili Mac Recipe

Chili Mac’n’Cheese

If you’re new to vegan comfort food, you probably have a burning question about the title of this blog post: How can mac’n’cheese be vegan?! What is this blasphemy? I refuse to acknowledge the possibility. (Can you tell I’ve gotten reactions like this before? hehe)

Calm down, take a breath and stay with me, my friend.  The possibilities are endless and wonderful. This Pinterest board lists tons of ways to make vegan mac’n’cheese, including pumpkin, cashews, tofu and even cauliflower. It’s an adventure!

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Icemageddon 2013 | chili + studying for finals

Last night, I had to stop studying because the lights went out at my house.

When an ice storm causes a blackout in your neighborhood, it’s difficult to do anything but bundle up in several blankets and go into hibernation mode. You get cold, you get hungry, and you definitely do not feel like finishing your research paper on urban food forests. Reviewing hundreds of plants for your plant I.D. and ecology final? Nooo. Drawing the final plan for your park project? NOPE.

However charming studying by candlelight may sound, burrowing in blankets sounds like a better plan. The conditions of this ice storm have dangerously contributed to your case of senioritis, and maybe a case of the common cold…

Thank goodness for the generosity and hospitality of friends who live ten minutes away in warm apartments.  Warmth and wifi make a much better study environment than an icebox of a house. A bowl of chili mac and cheese doesn’t hurt, either.

My friend said to bring snacks and ingredients, so my sister and I brought all the veggies and tofu from our fridge, to keep them from going bad. We’ve been studying all day and cooking up a storm in my friend’s cozy apartment!

I hope you are warm and safe with your loved ones!

I invite you to ‘like’ my page on Facebook and come back soon (probably in several hours) for some recipes: namely, chili mac and cheese and tofu scramble! While you are waiting, please feel free to check out the recent recipe posts I did for work in November–vegan hot chocolate and a cleansing cranberry citrus smoothie.