Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies

Happy Christmas Eve, y’all! 2017 is coming to a close–I can barely believe it! I’m in the mood to bake spicy cookies and drown my stress in hot chocolate, how about you?

Needless to say, grad school life has kept me quite occupied this year. I actually got sick twice this semester (currently still recovering)–which is absolutely insane to me, because I hardly ever get sick. This semester seriously took a toll on me. I have another year left–my thesis looms ahead! Cue the tears and hot chocolate…and Chinese five spice gingerbread cookies.

gingerbread scene final-B

Chinese five spice, ngũ vị hương in Vietnamese, is one of my favorite things to reach for in the kitchen. It has a complex balance of flavors: sweet, savory, sour, and bitter. Around this time last year, I shared a savory recipe featuring it–Fusion Jackfruit Bao Bites. This year, I’m showing you how I decided to throw it into some cookies…it turned out to be a success at a vegan Christmas cookie swap I went to, so I decided to refine the recipe to share with you!

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Chilling the dough before and after rolling keeps cookie shapes intact–but I also like the cute mistakes that occur when I forget to chill the second time, like this little dancing cutie!

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Winter Drinks For Definition Fitness Magazine | Outtakes

The holidays aren’t complete without sibling disagreements about silly things, like what kind of Christmas music to listen to…

Anna: What is this? Is this even a Christmas song??
Me: Well, most of the songs on this playlist aren’t classic Christmas songs, but I really like them because they capture the essence of Christmas for me…
Anna: Ann, I want ACTUAL Christmas songs, not this indie nonsense!
Me: But these are so dreamy…! Ok, fine.
Anna: Ooh, Silent Night, something I recognize!
Me: Oh yes! But it’s in German…
Anna *shaking her head*: Ann, PLEASE!

This exchange with my sister made us both laugh and resulted in a playlist with songs we both like…I hope you enjoy it.

For me, Christmas season is a time to cherish with loved ones, and a time for personal spiritual reflection. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you’re making the best of the holidays!

Since it’s Christmas Eve, I figure today is a good day to share my favorite outtakes from a dreamy recipe shoot I did for Definition Fitness Magazine’s winter issue. For the issue, I developed some unique winter drink recipes (not your average hot chocolate). Check them out below–I had a blast styling and shooting these! I’ve been wanting to share them with you for a while.

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Christmas Superfood Bark

Chocolate bark is one of my favorite things to make for the holidays! In the past, I have often sprinkled crushed candy canes on top of my chocolate bark, but I’ve been wanting to use healthier toppings. I’ve also been inspired by this healthy chocolate base without refined sugars!

I immediately thought of pomegranates and pistachios for toppings–the colors are perfect for Christmas and they go well with chocolate!

Pomegranates are loaded with Vitamin C, can help your body fight cancer, and improve your metabolism! Pistachios are packed with nutrients, fiber and healthy fats, plus they’re rich in cancer-fighting vitamin E.

Not only are these ingredients gorgeous, they are rich in immune-boosting antioxidants, minerals and vitamins! Why would I not want to sprinkle my chocolate with them? Superfoods > crushed candy. 🙂

Christmas Superfood Bark!

The resulting bark was beautiful in both appearance and taste–silky-smooth, rich chocolate, accompanied by refreshing bursts of juicy, tart pomegranate arils, and finally, a nice crunch from the pistachios! I was amazed at the contrast and harmony of it all. Love! Continue reading

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 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!