Calling all fans of brunch

Do yourself a favor and pick up Isa's new brunch book if you haven't already!

Delicious tomato rosemary scones. Collards and sausage that will pop your dome. And my personal favorite, soft and buttery coffee cake, just like the kind mom used to make, or buy. You know, the one in the blue and white box. I've made this recipe several times already and am still in love. Just in case you think you're going to get sick of it (you're not), Isa provides a bunch of variations for fruit, chocolate, and other flavors. The recipe is flexible enough, you can pretty much do whatever you want to it and it'll be amazing. That's how good it is. The other day, I added a layer of sweetened dairy-free cream cheese and fresh strawberries. It is strawberry season after all.

And the cinnamon rolls! Make the cinnamon rolls!

T-shirt contest

I'm not really a big fan (understatement) of PETA, what with their racism, sizism, and sexism (Do I even need to provide a link for that one? I wouldn't even know where to begin...), but if there's one thing that I hate more than PETA, it's vivisection.

Head on over to PETA2 for a chance to win one of Danny's newest designs for Zu that addresses the absurd cruelty of subjecting lovely critters to all sorts of chemicals and crap for the sake of human safety, and by safety, I mean stupid aesthetic standards.

Contest entry form! You have until August 28th.

And congratulations to Danny and Shaudi! Extra points for creative use of a red velvet cupcake, though if it were me, I'd much rather just have the cupcake. I wish you both lots of happiness!

Boca king and marshmallow queen.

Cucumber melon coolers

Warm sun means my CSA box has been overloaded with cucumbers and melons. Here's a refreshing way to use up the best summer flavors in one tasty drink.

Cucumber melon coolers (4-6 servings)
1 medium cucumber, roughly chopped (about 2 c.)
1 small melon, roughly chopped (about 3 c. - I used a sharlyn melon)
3 c. water
1/4 - 1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
1 handful of mint leaves
zest and juice of 1 lime

Combine everything in a blender and puree until smooth. If you're not using organic cucumbers, peel it first, since most conventional cukes are coated in wax. Start with 1/4 c. sugar and adjust the amount depending on how sweet your melon was and how sweet you want your juice to be. Pour through a sieve (optional, if you don't have a high-powered blender), then chill for at least 1 hour. Serve over ice.

Perfect for sipping by the pool, on a porch, or if you live somewhere awesome like the East Bay, at the beach!

In more East Bay rocks news, Souley Vegan's new storefront near Jack London Square is finally open for business. You can't beat their Southern Fried Tofu! They also have great BBQ tofu and all the fixings like mac & cheese, potato salad, collard greens, black eyed peas, yams, and lots more. The strawberry ginger juice is also delicious and super refreshing. Plus, the family that runs Souley are some of the friendliest folks around. Please support them!

Souley Vegan
301 Broadway (@ 3rd)
Oakland, CA 94607

Buckwheat pancakes for 1

I spent most of my life not really understanding pancakes. Who would choose flat blobs of dough over french toast or waffles? I also grew up on decidedly unamerican, paper thin crepes, dressed with syrups my mom would make from orange juice or jams (more on that later). It wasn't until very recently, that I discovered what pancakes really meant: fluffy, warm vehicles for fat and sugar, a carb-lover's dream. They are pan-fried cakes afterall, and that doesn't sound too shabby.

While my partner does love pancakes, he often has more discipline than me and my cravings for breakfast at any hour of the day, and so I put together this recipe which cooks up 6 delicious mini-cakes for one. It's easy to remember and a few of the ingredients are ok to eyeball, which means it come together really quickly. I like minis because, well, mini things are always cuter, and they cook much faster, too.

Buckwheat pancakes (6 - 3" pancakes)
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
fresh grated nutmeg (one or two passes on the microplane)
1/2 c. dairy-free milk
~ 1 tsp. oil or melted margarine
splash of vanilla extract (or use vanilla milk above)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients to distribute everything evenly. In a measuring cup, measure out your milk first, then splash in the oil and vanilla and whisk together in the cup to combine.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk slowly, just until everything is moistened.

Now, an important step, not to be skipped: set the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to rest.

When you batter is almost done resting, lightly oil and heat up your favorite pancake skillet (I like cast iron). For perfectly portioned pancakes (and cookies and cupcakes...) I highly recommend investing in a disher or several of various sizes. I use a size 30 (1 1/4 oz.) for this recipe for 6 pancakes, which is also about 2 heaping tablespoons. The batter will be fairly thick, so the disher makes for easy scooping, but you can just use a large spoon.

Cook your pancakes over medium to medium-high heat for a couple minutes each side, until golden.

In addition to growing up in a pancake-free home, we also rarely had maple syrup. Not always wanting my breakfast goods to taste like the fruit choice of the day, I got in the habit of just sprinkling sugar over my buttered crepes or french toast. I think this application is ideal for these little pancakes, as it allows the nutty flavor of the buckwheat to stand on its own (with a little help from the warm nutmeg). The crunchy crystals are also a nice contrast to the soft, fluffy cakes.


Summer doesn't quite have the significance it did when I was in school and it meant something entirely different than just being able to still see the sun on the commute home from work. It's still my favorite season though, with clear skies, being able to wear tank tops at night, frosty limeade, BBQs, and this tomboy's recently discovered affinity for the summer dress.

Being in California, our hot days come early, and I was lucky enough to spend my May birthday with great friends in one of my favorite places, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, in West Oakland.

In the shadows of the port cranes and the Bay Bridge, we feasted of tofu pups and Boca burgers, potato and green bean salad, chips, sodas, and a strawberry vanilla cake from Shaudi. All the makings of a great barbecue!

Special thanks to Lisa for bringing out some white chocolate chips from New York on her recent visit to the Bay Area. I was able to make some classic white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for the party. One of my all time favorite cookie combinations and it's been years since I've been able to eat them.

Soon after, I took off with my family for China for a couple weeks of sightseeing.

Things got off to a bad start, when the airline didn't pack a vegan meal for the 12 hour flight.

I managed to find a few vegetarian restaurants thanks to the Vegetarian China website. However, I spent most of the trip downing massive amounts of white rice, bok choy, and watermelon.

In Xi'an, we had some beautiful dumplings, though the fillings weren't impressive and the skins were tough.

In Yangshuo, I finally got what I had really wanted for most of the trip: tofu and vegetables, and happily stuffed myself. I never thought it would be so difficult to get tofu in restaurants in China.

Upon my return, I threw a bun party for some friends.

I used my recipe for caramelized lemongrass tofu and whipped up some tofu, carrot, jicama, and shiitake stuffed cha gio. This is the perfect menu for summer parties, as it doesn't heat up your kitchen with too much cooking, and the dish is refreshing and light. Setting up the food buffet style also means less work for the host. I placed bunches of mint and cilantro in glasses of water to keep them fresh, and let people help themselves to all of the fixings: noodles, lettuce, peanuts, cucumbers, and nuoc cham sauce. Few things say summer quite as well as mint and cucumbers.

We ended the meal with something uniquely summer: smores!

I can't say that I've ever actually roasted marshmallows over a real summertime campfire (a gas grill perhaps, or a garbage can fire pit, and this time I made do with our broiler), but these sticky, sweet treats still allude to those quintessential scout camp memories that few people actually have. Thanks to the fine folks over at Chicago Soydairy, I had a big bag full of air-puffed marshmallows to share. The fluffy 'mallows roast up just like you'll remember conventional ones doing: toasty and crisp on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle. I'm also hoarding some for a cold night when I can top off a hot cocoa. Order some for yourself today and do summer right.

If you seek tofu

While walking down the street, proudly displaying my honest love for all things tofu, I remembered the recent absurdity in Denver regarding one vegan's failure to obtain a TOFU license plate. Especially given the syntax of Herbivore Clothing's adorable design, I wondered if my shirt would be misinterpreted by anyone. But, I realized that if anyone were that stupid, then they deserve to be offended.

You can pick up your own "i <3 tofu" shirt here and offend as many people as your tofu and FU lovin' heart desires.

Congratulations are in order for Josh "Herbivore" Hooten, who recently raised almost $13,000 for Farm Sanctuary while completing a 604 mile bicycle journey from Portland to Orland, CA, for their annual Hoe Down event that was held this past weekend. Ronnie would be proud! Check out his beautiful pictures from the ride: gallery.

A little closer to home, I'd like to introduce you to a little joint that you should really become familiar with, if you haven't already. Rico's is a little, retro diner, located on the corner of 15th and Franklin in downtown Oakland.

They have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu with several sandwich and fried potato options available. Their claim the fame is the vegan pulled pork sandwich, made from mushroom stems, in a tasty without being overly messy sauce and organic greens on a soft, wheat bun. They also have a banh mi, which I have yet to try, and a chicken and sweet pepper cheesesteak sandwich (sans cheese for vegan) that got good reviews from my pals. You can get regular fries, garlic fries, curly fries, or piping hot tater tots! Self-serve cups and access to an ice dispenser and water cooler get a thumbs up as well.

The downside to Rico's is that they're downtown business lunch crowd hours friendly, so they're only open until 3 p.m. You can also stop in on Saturdays. And be sure to (gently) harass them to carry vegan milkshakes!

If you're still hankering for some more t-shirts and are laughing in the recession's face, stop by Zu where Danny has a couple new vegan designs up.

Strawberry-quinoa bars

I'm a firm believer in not feeling guilty about the foods we put into our body (global politics and food resources aside -- I'm talking about the 3:00 p.m. voice in your head that says, "I want a donut.") Women especially, but everyone our culture as a whole, are under considerable pressure to fit into tiny pants, and the resulting oceans of self-hatred that flood our communities makes me want to punch ad execs in the face. Screw that. Guilt is a waste of perfectly good time. If you want to eat cookies for breakfast, eat damn cookies for breakfast, and love your beautiful body just the way it is. Granted, you probably shouldn't eat cookies for breakfast everyday, and you should also fill up the rest of your menu with kale and chard and sweet potatoes and tempeh and other good things.

So, while you shouldn't hate yourself over what you put into your body, I do believe that you can really be happy about putting good things into your cookie hole. Strawberry-quinoa bars are my solution to wanting to eat cheesecake for breakfast everyday. Thanks to the genius of Joanne Stepaniak and her cashew and millet teascake (courtesy of Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan), now I can. I modified Joanne's recipe to combine the healthy fats in almonds with the complete protein of quinoa, while still giving you that satisfying, creamy tang. I used Millennium Restaurant's crust from their Chocolate Almond Midnight (only the best dessert ever), adding oats, again replacing cashews with almonds, and bumping the nutrition up even more with the omega-goodness of flax seeds. It won't fool you into thinking you're really eating a traditional, decadent cheesecake, but it's still remarkably delicious, and full of all sorts of nutritious things that will start your day off right.

There are quite a few steps that require a bit of multitasking, and a few more pieces of kitchen equipment than I'd like, but it's worth it in the end. You will need a high-speed blender with plunger or an immersion blender. (Or, try it in a regular blender or food processor and let me know how it turns out!) Don't fret if your filling doesn't get perfectly smooth; you won't notice once the bars are fully constructed.

Strawberry-quinoa bars, 9 servings

1 c. rolled oats
2 tbs. whole flax seeds
1/3 c. whole raw almonds
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbs. vegetable oil
2 tbs. maple syrup
1 tbs. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. quinoa
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. whole raw almonds
1/3 c. maple syrup
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. almond milk
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. agar powder
2 tsp. water
2 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350F and line an 8x8 baking pan with foil (enough so it reaches up and over the sides, for easy removal). Combine the agar and 2 tsp. of water in a small bowl and set aside.

In a blender, combine 1/2 c. of the rolled oats and flax seeds. Blend until the oats and most of the flax are well ground. It should resemble whole wheat flour. Pour into a food processor with the 1/3 c. of almonds, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until the almonds have broken down into a coarse meal.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oil, syrup, water, and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula to stir in the remaining 1/2 c. of oats and the almond mixture. Stir until evenly moistened, then press into your prepared pan. The crust should just begin to come up the sides (about 1/4"). Bake for 18-20 minutes, just until the edges start to brown, then remove from the oven and set the pan on a cooling rack.

In a sieve, rinse your quinoa well under running water. (Crucial step!) Transfer the quinoa to a small lidded pot, along with the 1 1/2 c. of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is soft and the water has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, grind the almonds and maple syrup in a blender until it is as smooth as possible. Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add it to the blender, along with the milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. (I prefer to use alcohol-free extract, since this part will not be cooked.) Pause your blending and scrape the sides down frequently. If your crust has completely cooled, pour your filling into the crust and spread evenly. If it's not ready yet, scrape the filling into a bowl and set aside. Once it starts to cool and set, it's not very fun to try to remove it from the blender! You can leave everything on the counter at room temp until you've finished the final step.

In a small pot, combine the strawberries, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat just until some of the berries begin to soften (it's ok if some of the bigger ones are still a little frozen). Add the agar mixture and simmer for 5 more minutes. No agar granules should be visible. Use the back of a spoon to gently break down some of the bigger strawberries, if they haven't done it on their own already.

Let the strawberry mixture cool for 20-30 minutes, the pour it over your filled crust and spread evenly over the top of the bars. Let the bars cool completely before covering and refrigerating for at least 4-6 hours. Or leave them overnight and enjoy for breakfast the next day!

Cilantro ice cream

I was recently reminded of the phenomena that is people who hate cilantro. They blame it on genetics, but really, that is the coward's way out. I feel pity for these people who don't understand the magic of this fresh green herb that brings sunshine to so many dishes from around the world.

Coupled with the recent, yet brief, sunny weather we've been having, this inspired me to break in the ice cream machine my sister had given me for Christmas, and I quickly blended up a batch of refreshing cilantro ice cream. Cashews and coconut milk create ultimate creaminess, while a touch of lime compliments the bright flavor of cilantro.

Cilantro ice cream, about 1 quart

2 c. raw cashews, soaked for 1-2 hours, then rinsed and drained
1 - 13.5 oz can of coconut milk (full fat)
1 c. water
3/4 - 1 c. unrefined cane sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 large bunch of cilantro (about 2 c.)
zest of 1 lime

Combine everything in a blender, then blend until smooth. Easy, right? You can adjust the level of sugar, depending on how sweet you like your ice cream. Remember, the frozen, final product won't taste as sweet as the blended mix.

Pour into a container, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (a couple hours at least, but overnight is great.)

Process according to the instructions on your ice cream maker, then enjoy!

Bike Ride for Animals

All around awesome dude Josh Hooten, who along with his wife Michelle owns Portland's Herbivore Clothing Company, is hopping on his bike for a 600 mile trek down to Orland, California, for Farm Sanctuary's annual Hoe Down in May.

I'm hoping his ride creates minimum chafing, while still reaching maximum outreach for all of the good that Farm Sanctuary does to help animals who have been abused, neglected, rejected, and otherwise spat upon by our messed up food system. Josh has set an amibitious goal of raising $10,000 dollars for the farm. You can lend your support here: I want to give Josh money!

My birthday just happens to be during the Hoe Down, so in lieu of all of those gifts I know you were planning to get me, please give your money to Farm Sanctuary instead!

You can follow along with Josh's training and preparation on his blog.

The Great Banh Chung Experiment of 2009

I could pretend to be a high-falutin' expert like some folks, but it's easier if I just direct you to universal blogging source Wikipedia for a crash course in banh chung. Now that that's over with, let's move on to my experience.

It's been several years since I've had one of these rice cakes since they are most certainly not vegan, and somehow I got it into my head one day at work that I would make my own. Over several days and two markets, I collected glutinous rice, hulled mung beans, canned green jackfruit, and frozen banana leaves. After several more days (or weeks, really...I don't often have 8 hour blocks of time to hover near the stove), I finally settled in to making my banh chung. You might have noticed in the link above that they are generally filled with pork, wrapped in neat squares, and bound with kitchen twine. None of that applies to mine.

I wish I had a real, fool-proof recipe to offer you, but unfortunately, as this was my first and extremely experimental attempt, I can only offer guidelines. This website and this one were extremely helpful, and I loosely based my own process off of their information.

I started by soaking the rice and mung beans overnight, and preparing my jackfruit marinade, which I can give a recipe for!

Jackfruit filling
1 c. coarsely chopped green jackfruit
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and pepper in a bowl and stir. Mix in the chopped jackfruit, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, I drained the rice and set it aside. I heated 2 tsp. of cooking oil in a skillet over medium high heat. I added the jackfruit and sauteed for 4-5 minutes until the fruit softened and began to caramelize. Using a fork, I mashed and broke up the fruit into a shredded consistency.

Next, I drained and rinsed the mung beans, then placed them in a steamer basket for about 10 minutes until tender. I mashed the beans with a fork and set them aside to cool. Meanwhile, I soaked the banana leaves in warm water to defrost, then gently (I can't stress this enough) unfolded them on my kitchen table that I had covered with a layer of towels. I pat them dry, then cut them into several strips. Four that were approximately 5 x 18" and 4 that were about 12 x 18". I was planning to make 2 cakes.

I referenced this video to attempt to make my cakes without a mold. I placed two of the larger leaf rectangles so that they overlapped by about 5" lengthwise. Then I placed one of the narrower strips perpendicular over the first two, and the final narrow leaf, perpendicular over that one. (See video @ 15 seconds)

I scooped some rice into the center of the leaves, followed by a handful of mung beans that I had flattened into a disk. Next came a few spoonfuls of jackfruit, then another mung bean disk. At this point, I realized that I had failed to acquire kitchen twine. Not wanting to bury the beautiful leaves under layers of foil, I raided my sewing kit for some thread that I hoped would withstand several hours in simmering water. I followed the video as closely as I could, but that guy has some serious skills. When my packets were wrapped and bound, they were sad, square pillows at best and barely reminiscent of the tight geometry of tradition.

I placed my two cakes into a large stock pot, covered them with water, and brought it to a boil. I then reduced the heat to a simmer and got ready for a long night. Now, for some reason, every recipe that Google provided me with insisted on cooking these suckers uncovered. Not wanting to tempt fate, I did just that and kept a second pot on low heat, so I could top off the water as needed. But this just seems ludicrous to me. Seven hours of cooking and I'm not allowed to use a lid to reduce evaporation? I can't possibly think of a reason why that would be neccessary when cooking something that needs to be constantly submerged under water. It's not like flavors are getting concentrated since new water is being added. If someone can convince me of a good reason why I shouldn't use a lid or even a slow cooker, please let me know.

I dilligently topped off my pot and rotated my cakes every hour or so. At about 1 a.m., I figured they had had enough and removed the cakes to a colander. I placed a folded tea towel on a large plate, stacked the cakes, and covered them with another towel. I placed another plate on top, a large can of tomatoes on top of that, and left them on the counter to drain while I got some sleep.

The next morning, I cut the string and carefully unfolded to leaves to what I hoped would not be disaster.

The long, steamy bath renders the already sticky rice into a homogenous, chewy cake, stained green with the smokey, tea-like aroma of banana leaves. You can enjoy it a room temperature, or lightly heated in a steamer or microwave. The nutty mung beans and salty jackfruit, while tasty, add only a hint for flavor to this subtle cake. So how do you fix this? By frying of course! This was my favorite preparation as a child, and I would eat it drowned in mysterious Maggi sauce.

Cut your cake into slices about 3/4" thick and heat a couple teaspoons of oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. (No one said this would be healthy.) Place a couple slices in the skillet and let them sizzle for several minutes until they begin to turn golden. Flip each slice, then using a large spoon, press the slices outwards toward each other. Continue flipping and pressing until you have one, crispy pancake, about 1/2" in thickness. It's easiest to press the side that was just browned, because the hardened rice will prevent your spoon from getting glued to the cake. Eat immediately with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a dash of soy sauce.

Toasted coconut ribbons

Anyone who knows me knows that I love coconut, so it's no surprise that one of my favorite Lunar New Year treats are candied coconut ribbons called mut dua. Now, if you're actually familiar with this confection, you're probably looking at my blog and thinking, "Dude, you totally burned your mut dua." And you're be correct. I was too distracted watching a fascinating documentary that analyzed the stresses placed on women by our overbearing consumer culture and stifling heteronormativity (::cough::rockoflovebus::cough::) to stir my coconut as frequently as I should have.

These strips of coconut are usually pure, powdery white, or sometimes dyed pink and green. But they're also cloyingly sweet and lacking in any real flavor other than the in-your-face-and-piss-your-dentist-off scream of sugar. My accident was actually a great mistake that tuned up the coconut's creamy flavor, while the caramelization and hint of vanilla softened the blow of the sweetness. Handling mature coconuts is a bit of an endeavor, but it's totally worth it. Bland, store-bought mut dua no more!

Toasted coconut ribbons
1 mature coconut (the brown, hairy ones)
3/4 c. vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using a hammer and large nail (or power drill, if you want to get fancy), poke holes in 2 of your coconut's 3 eyes and drain out the water. Strain the liquid to remove any hair or shell bits that might have fallen in, then set aside.

Bake your coconut on the center rack of you oven for about 20 minutes. The shell should be cracked in several places. Remove the coconut and set it on a solid counter top on folded dishtowel to help secure it in place. Get out some aggression and firmly beat your coconut with the hammer several times until the shell splits open. You'll notice that the coconut is covered with two layers of bark: a hard, hairy outer shell and a thin, snug inner skin. A combination of hammer-abuse and gentle prying with a paring knife will separate the hard shell from the meat. Use the knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the inner skin. Try to keep your coconut in as large of pieces as possible so you'll have bigger ribbons. (You might notice that I wasn't too successful at this final note myself, but this was my first attempt at opening a mature coconut, so deal with it!)

Once you have peeled off the inner skin, rinse your coconut chunks under running water to remove any hairs or skin bits that still remain. Pat the coconut dry, then using a sharp knife, slice your coconut into slices about 1/8" thick. Place the ribbons in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer the coconut for about 3-5 minutes to remove some of the oil. Drain the coconut in a colander and rinse out your pot.

Over medium heat, combine the vanilla sugar and 1/4 c. of the coconut water, and stir until dissolved. If you don't have vanilla sugar on hand, use regular sugar plus 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract. Add the coconut ribbons and stir to cover them all in syrup. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring frequently. The ribbons will turn translucent as they cook.

After about 30 minutes, the pot should be almost dry and the sugar will begin to crystallize. At this point, you can break tradition and stop stirring for a couple minutes. As the sugar at the bottom of the pot begins to caramelize, stir the mixture to get fresh coconut and sugar at the bottom. If the pot starts to get too dry add a tablespoon or two of coconut water to promote caramelization and prevent burning. Continue this process for another 20-25 minutes until your ribbons are nicely toasted and all the water has evaporated.

Spread the coconut ribbons on a baking sheet and allow them to cool completely. They will keep for a couple weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

ACAB bakesale

On New Year's Day, BART cop Johannes Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant while Grant was face down on the platform of the Fruitvale station. His four year old daughter is now without a father.

Please support this benefit event at 924 Gilman on Sunday, February 8th, starting at 3:00 p.m. There are going to be some stellar bands, as well as a bakesale hosted by Allison, Kristen, Toni, and myself. All of our proceeds will go to Oscar's family.

Slacker Roundup: What have I been up to?

I'm still here! The holiday season was busy, I've been sick, work has been stressful, my cat ate my homework.

Despite my dislike for shopping and even stronger dislike for Jesus, I appreciate the gatherings and food that go hand in hand with the winter holidays, and the opportunity to hang out with family and friends. Friends that do it up big.

The Spread

Danny harnessed his inner Martha for the centerpiece.

The entirely homemade array of goodies included chocolate chip-walnut cookies, Mexican wedding cakes, mini mocha bundt cakes, sherry cake, chips & salsa, chocolate-drizzled pretzels and popcorn, seitan-in-a-blanket, stuffed mushrooms, mo-f-ing samoas, spinach hummus, pita chips, chocolates, truffles, gingerfolk, sugar cookies, and pure black metal.

Mini-bundts (thanks to shane's folks for the kick ass pan!) also made an appearance at the annual white elephant at Shalon and RJ's, this time in chocolate-cream-filled form.

Coworkers received Mexican wedding cakes and cookie cutters.

Recipe from Joy of Baking, modded with Earth Balance, a full 1 c. of nuts, and only 2 tbs. of sugar in the dough.

Hiboux received some organic wheatgrass from the Temescal Farmer's Market.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the bûche de Noël that I made for my family.

Dressed with pecans, cranberries, and quickly dissolving snow.

I used caramel cake from Hannah, knowing that it would stand up to a rolling. The roll was filled with a cooked buttercream flavored with espresso powder and hazelnut extract, then sprinkled with toasted pecans. Finally, a decadent layer of Isa's ganache went over the top for that tooth-aching, bark-like finish. It probably weighed in at about 5 pounds and I ate the leftovers for breakfast for 2 days. Yum! (shane: You should call this a log blog.)

shane also celebrated a birthday recently, which called for a 4-layer vanilla latte cake, in honor of one of this favorite beverages.

4 layers of vanilla cake, brushed with fresh coffee, and filled with espresso-flavored cooked buttercream.