Bite-Sized Coconut Macaroon Nests

Say hello to the cutest dessert I’ve ever made, inspired by spring and nature!
Mini Coconut Macaroon Nests | plantcrush.coCrunchy on the outside, tender and chewy on the inside, these little coconut macaroon bites are best enjoyed soon after they’re taken out of the oven. They are decadent and delicate at the same time. To compliment the macaroons’ rich coconut flavor, I topped them with fresh juicy blueberries for some tart sweetness.

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Lavender Hot Chocolate + Coconut Whip

Lavender Hot Chocolate I am a fan of all things lavender, especially lavender lemonade. I’ve been dying to try lavender hot chocolate. I saw a recipe for it on à la mode’s blog a while back, and it was simply gorgeous. Truly inspiring. I had to veganize it. While my photos may not be as amazing as his, I think the hot chocolate tasted divine, especially with this genius coconut whipped cream from Oh She Glows.
Decadent Coconut Whipped Cream

My friend just pointed out to me that this looks like the moon and stars! Not my intention, but I like it!

This drink is cozy and elegant—my kind of Valentine’s Day treat! I live for the joys of relaxation and authentic simplicity, no superfluous roses or overpriced dinners here, thank you.

My friend told me a rose hot chocolate might be more suited to tomorrow’s holiday, but I’m just so obsessed with lavender. It’s done.

Delicious Lavender Hot ChocolateThis recipe makes enough to serve two, so you can share it with your sweetheart for a charming end to your evening. If you’re single and have a 20 oz mug, then it serves one. More hot chocolate for me! ^.^

Food-saving note: You really only need a couple dollops of coconut whipped cream, so you’ll have coconut milk leftover–I’m going to use my leftover coconut milk to make this easy caramel sauce from Oh, Ladycakes!

Vegan Lavender Hot Chocolate
inspired by à la mode
(makes 2 normal servings, or 1 generous serving)

Total time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 t dried lavender buds (available at Whole Foods or any natural grocery store)
  • 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped uniformly (use at least 70% cacao—I used Theo’s brand, available at Kroger or Whole Foods)
  • 1/6 cup pure maple syrup (or to your taste)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • coconut whipped cream, for serving (optional, but it gives the BEST creamy texture–be sure to chill several hours beforehand. You can get the canned coconut milk from Kroger or the Asian market.)

Method:

  1. In a saucepan, heat the nondairy milk and lavender buds over medium heat. Whisk occasionally and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let the lavender steep for about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the lavender and return the milk to the saucepan, on low to medium heat. Add the chocolate, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt. Whisk until the chocolate is melted, and everything is incorporated and frothy. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour into mugs and serve with dollops of coconut whipped cream. Mix it up to incorporate the creaminess throughout the whole drink.

Gorgeous Lavender Hot Chocolate

Mmm…it looks like a galaxy and tastes like a combination of two of my favorite things—Earl Grey lattes and chocolate. It’s perfect!

Next time, I’m going to try making this with Dream Nondairy’s creamy sweet chocolate bar. I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day, whether you are celebrating with someone special or your awesome self!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Have any other lavender-related ideas? If you try the recipe, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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7 Tasty Tips for a Solo Thanksgiving

The premise of Thanksgiving is not something I personally celebrate, and I definitely don’t eat turkey (here’s 50 million reasons why), but I am always grateful to have time off from school to spend time with loved ones. And it’s a time for students like me to catch up on studying, of course. Some break!

Quite a few of my friends at UT Arlington are international students, so they will not be attending large family Thanksgiving dinner parties. This is a post dedicated to them. If you’re having a quiet holiday this year and are unsure of what to make, here are a few yummy suggestions for a solitary, vegan Thanksgiving celebration. You don’t necessarily have to cook for hours and most of the dishes can be also be made gluten-free.

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4th Annual Texas Veggie Fair | A Yummy Roundup

I despise and try to avoid crowds most of the time, but you can bet I always make an exception for the Texas Veggie Fair. I would choose this one-day event over the regular Texas State Fair any day, and that’s not just because admission to the veggie fair is free. I go for the awesome food, and to support the wonderful vegan community of activists, businesses, educators, and more.The event organizers do an awesome job.

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I’m always amazed at how crowded it gets, and it seems to just keep getting bigger every year. The lines are INSANE (especially the line for the vegan corn dogs), but it’s very exciting to see how many people are interested in the veggie trend, especially in a place like Texas. This year’s event was said to be the biggest yet, with over 7,000 attendees. That’s wonderful news to me! Continue reading

Vegan Options at GRIP Mediterranean Grill + Beirut Cafe

I love Mediterranean food because it includes a great variety of vegan dishes. My favorite Mediterranean place is Beirut Cafe, down the street from UT Arlington. It is a great place for vegans, because all of the vegetarian dishes on the menu are vegan-friendly (except for those that obviously contain dairy, such as cheese pies or the yogurt dipping sauce). When I go with friends, we often like to share the vegetarian mezzeh, which has an amazing number of dishes to choose from. I am obsessed with the spinach pies (as pictured below).

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As a Beirut Cafe regular, I have been very curious to see how College Park’s new GRIP location compares to my favorite hummus and falafel joint. About a week ago, I finally got the chance to go check out GRIP’s vegan options.

Update (10/8/13): GRIP’s vegan items are now clearly indicated with a “V”. For those sensitive to gluten, gluten-free items are clearly marked “GF”. I LOVE them for this–it makes things so much easier! 

Unfortunately, GRIP’s vegan offerings were not as abundant as I would have guessed, but they had a decent amount. The first thing I found out was that both their hummus and baba ganoush contain dairy. I was both saddened and surprised. From my personal experience, these dishes are usually vegan by default, because their creaminess comes from the use of tahini. I really appreciated the staff informing me, because I never would have guessed it. I’ll just stick to getting my hummus and baba ganoush fix at Beirut Cafe.

Falafel!

The falafel wrap is the only vegan entree, but it’s pretty excellent! For those of you who have not tried it, falafel is a deep-fried patty made with chickpeas and/or fava beans. Beirut’s falafel wrap is similar, as both places use tabouli and tahini, but GRIP’s wrap is different, with its inclusion of mint and pickled turnips. In trying their wrap, I especially enjoyed the addition of fresh mint leaves. GRIP’s falafel is crunchy on the outside, with a soft, savory interior. Beirut’s falafel is well-flavored, but sometimes it’s a little too crunchy for me.

Besides falafel, GRIP’s menu also has fries, fried cauliflower (comes with tahini for dipping), pita chips, tabouli and dolmas. Tabouli is a colorful salad made with parsley, tomatoes, bulgar, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Dolmas are stuffed grapeleaves that usually contain rice, but they sometimes have ground beef. The dolmas at GRIP are vegan-friendly, but I found that I much prefer Beirut’s veggie dolmas, because I think their rice is better seasoned. GRIP also has a Mediterranean salad that is very filling.

Fried CauliflowerIt’s pretty obvious that Beirut Cafe will always have my heart, as long as they keep up with their vegan variety and continue to carry my favorite spinach pies and fattoush. However, I will still visit GRIP once in a while for their falafel wraps!

If you get the chance to go to GRIP, try the falafel wrap and bring a friend! Their wrap is pretty big, so I split it with my sister. Please let me know your thoughts about GRIP in the comments!

Update, 12/10/13: GRIP’s Arlington location is now closed! Students will have to get their Mediterranean fixes at Beirut Cafe, Prince Lebanese Grill, or Narah Cafe.

Pie Five Pizza Crust Controversy Resolved!

When Pie Five Pizza opened at College Park last semester, all the crust varieties were vegan–meaning vegan students (and lactose-intolerant students) could order the specialty Treehugger pie, or any custom veggie pizza sans cheese. However, this semester, there has been some discussion that the company has changed their crust recipes to include dairy.

Saddened by the sudden cutoff from my only source of vegan pizza on campus, I immediately contacted the company in hopes of hearing otherwise. They were quite helpful in their response and I was reassured to learn that vegan students can still go to Pie Five for all their pizza needs on campus. Continue reading

UT Arlington’s Connection Cafe makes strides with vegan line

The Connection Cafe at UT Arlington now has a 100% vegan line that serves lunch and dinner.

Before the new vegan line came into effect, I never gave the Connection Cafe a second glance. From my lackluster experience at my freshman orientation, I knew the options would be too limited to be worth my time or money. Luckily, things have changed immensely since I first came to UT Arlington. Continue reading

Tasty Highlights of the Texas Veggie Fair 2012

The line for the vegan corn dogs was the longest food line.

I have never had a funnel cake in my life. On Sunday afternoon, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with some friends at the third annual Texas Veggie State Fair. I was determined to find a vendor with vegan funnel cakes so I could sample some (they ran out quickly last year).

I ran into my friend Camille Suttles, an entertainment reporter from The Shorthorn, and together we sampled some (alas, not all) of the delicious vegan fare. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any funnel cakes, but we found plenty of other things to try. Continue reading

Vegan dining resolution at UTA: hurdles and results

Last semester, Student Congress passed Resolution 11-19, a resolution aimed at making healthy, plant-based meals more accessible in the Connection Cafe. The resolution, inspired by the all-vegan dining hall at the University of North Texas, called for increased vegan options and ingredient labels on all foods served in the cafe.

Photo courtesy of Richard Hoang (The Shorthorn).

After the resolution was passed, it was sent to President Spaniolo’s office for review. Nursing senior Zak Murphy, a student senator on the resolution’s research committee, has kept me updated with the progress of the resolution. While it is well-known that resolutions can take time to implement, Spaniolo’s course of action came as a disappointment to both of us–as we had both worked very hard to get the resolution on the table.  Continue reading