HHL Best of 2009: Top Vegan Recipes and More.

What a fun year 2009 has been for Healthy. Happy. Life. I have had the joy of posting over 650 blog posts and numerous healthy, happy recipes and wellness tips. I have been thrilled to read your comments and feedback. You guys are awesome! So for my end-of-the-year review I'd like to showcase my Top 25 Vegan Recipes of 2009, based on blog traffic. So if you missed any vegan recipes this year, it's catch up time. I've also listed my Top 15 Non-Recipe Blog Posts of 2009. The envelope please...

Number One (Non-Recipe) Post.
The number one (most traffic) non-recipe blog post of 2009 was: Wii Active vs. Wii Fit vs. Life. I wasn't surprised so many people were googling about whether or not to purchase a video game system to help them 'get fit' this past year. I am personally not a huge fan of video games as a main source of fitness, but you can read my full blog post for all the info on this timely technology/wellness topic.

Number One Recipe.
You loved it and I love it. The number one rated recipe of 2009 was my Spicy Verde Lasagna. It's oh so good. And oh so vegan. Note: this was also my number one overall ranked blog post of 2009.

Top Fifteen Non-Recipe Blog Posts of 2009

1. Wii Active vs. Wii Fit vs. Life
2. Chipotle's Vegan Garden Blend Grill, Welcomed in DC!
3. Blender Review: Vita-Mix, Blendtec vs. Oster Fusion.
4. Mango Nutrition Facts: Super Fruit, Tropical Delight!
5. New from Vitamin Water: Sync and Ten Calorie Flavors
6. Vegan Thanksgiving 101: Tips, Advice and the Basics.
7. Eco-Atkins Diet: Healthier Weight loss than Atkins.
8. Don't Eat Baby Carrots?! Chlorine and White Blushing.
9. Twilight's Taylor Lautner Adds 26 Pounds of Muscle, for Sequel
10. Foods for your Mood Part Three: Purifying Foods!
11. Vegan Red Velvet Cake: Red Mango Bakery. My Review.
12. Coconut Water 101: For those of you who haven't heard.....
13. Watermelon 101: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
14. How to Roast a Pepper 101
15. Blackstrap Molasses: Black Goo that's Good-for-You!

Top 25 Vegan Recipes of 2009

1. Spicy Lasagna Verde with Green Basil Pesto. Vegan.
2. Coconut Water Ice Cubes: Best Healthy Smoothie Tip!
3. Sweet Potato Tofu Hash. Vegan Comfort Food.
4. Rainbow Wraps: Veggies!
5. Recipe: Vegan Carrot Ginger Soup, Two Ways!
6. Tempeh Bacon Recipe. Vegan 'Facon' for All.
7. Vegan Thanksgiving Series: Main Dish Proteins. 15 Ideas.
8. Fruity Fizz White Sangria. Healthy Happy Hour.
9. Recipe: Vegan Cole Slaw
10. Sweet Fresh Corn Cake. Scoop or Loaf. Both Vegan.
11. Vegan Thanksgiving Series: Appetizer Recipes. Top Ten!
12. Zesty Lemon Custard Bars. Vegan. No-Bake. Zing-y!
13. "Back to School" Series: Ten Lunchbox Showstoppers!
14. Picnic Perfect Chickenless Salad Sandwich. Vegan.
15. Recipe: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Layer Cake.
16. Pineapple Enzyme Banana Smoothie. Happier Sinuses.
17. The Definitive Vegan Stuffing Post: Recipe Trio.
18. Pumpkin Spice Apple Pecan Muffins. No Oil Added.
19. Vegan Rice Pudding. Dessert and Breakfast Approved.
20. Vegan Ranch Dressing Dip.
21. Recipe: Sweet 'n Sassy Sweet Potato Pita Pockets!
22. Oatmeal Bake Tiki Squares. Kid-Approved Breakfast.
23. Kitchen Sink Granola Bars.
24. Top Ten Summer Sandwich Recipes! No-Cook Meals.
25. Kathy's Famous Sweet Potato Mash!

*NOTE: Since these lists have a built in bias towards posts I did earlier on in 2009, I highly suggest you peruse the recipes index to catch up on all my latest fave recipe posts. Like Cheesecake Pumpkin Pie and Butternut Squash Fall Pasta...and many more.*



Dear 2010, My Vegan Foodie New Year Requests. A Rant.

2009 has been a delicious year for foodies, and even vegan foodies like me, but I say bring on 2010. And oh, if I can squeeze in a few *special requests* for the coming year, it would be much appreciated. Here is my end-of-the-year rant about what I want to see more (and less of) in 2010. Dear 2010, let the vegan foodie ranting begin...

A Forethought: Why the Rant?

Eating 100% Vegan is Hard! Anyone who tells you being vegan is easy - is lying. Or they don't get out much. Or they own their own vegan restaurant. Or they have time-traveled back from the future where vegan eating will indeed be a lot easier than it is today. It's hard. That's why a lot of people can't commit to a 100% vegan lifestyle - and that's OK, even eating veg a few times a week is a big step up from the mainstream.

"Vegan" is a lifestyle that takes patience, loyalty and passion. It's a physical, mental and emotional challenge. It messes with your social circles, relationships and trips you up in your daily routine. It tests your analytical skills as well as your leadership qualities. It's a label you love at times and loathe at others. Its a "what-I-eat" label that you wish wasn't such a social label. But really, labels and stereotypes are tools for the incurious and ignorant. Eating vegan isn't a diet and it isn't a label, it's a lifestyle. You live it or you don't. And the challenge is obvious since vegan eats sometimes require an against-the-current swim to get to.

So, at the end of each year I think every special diet person out there (vegan, food allergies, kosher, gluten-intolerant, diabetic and more) deserves a little time to rant. Here's mine.

Here it is, my rant of what I'd like to see more and less of in 2010.

My 2010 Vegan Foodie Rant: Dear 2010,...

Here we go 2010, lets make this a foodie year to remember...

First off, more coconut water please. Everywhere. In vending machines, at corner stores, sporting events, concerts, on restaurant menus and at the movies. A hydrated movie patron is a happy movie patron. Four stars for those little tropical fresh young coconuts. Speaking of movies, can we get some vegan snacks at the concession stand please? Soy crisps, air-popped popcorn with real sea salt (maybe a drizzle of macadamia oil) and perhaps a soy-friendly espresso bar in those megaplex theaters, so I don't have to keep sneaking in my Starbucks Soy Latte.

Onto foodie entertainment, I want to see more actual cooking shows on The Food Network and less "sugar glass, BBQ-cookoff, cake-making" competitions. More Chefs cooking on Food Network please. (Gosh, that sounds like the age-old rant of MTV needs to play more music videos.) Food Network needs to play more cooking shows. Dicing, chopping, slicing, braising, roasting - I want to see and hear all those glorious kitchen sights and sounds. Oh and while I'm talking Food Network, how about a few more vegan-friendly shows. Maybe something like Emeril Green on the Planet Green channel. Love that show. Maybe even an all-vegan cooking show. It's about time, the world is ready for a vegetarian FN cooking star. Maybe something that focuses on ECO-friendly green eating and not just (butter and meat, butter and meat, butter and meat and sugar too. Butter and meat and sugar and cheese. Forgot the cheese.)

Its a new decade, why not make 2010 the year of the epiphany: vegan food is delicious (and easy to cook). Oh, and it's cheaper too. A block of tempeh vs. a block of meat - you do the math. Yummy, healthy, wallet-friendly and earth friendly. It doesn't get more 2010 than that. Tempeh, organic fruits and veggies, hemp milk, maple syrup, quinoa pasta, acai smoothies, yum, yum, and more yum.

More of the entertainment world: I predict celebrity chefs and shows will continue to triumph: Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef, Chopped, Chef Academy, FN cooking shows, and even travel/foodie shows like No Reservations continue to see good ratings. And I love the new crop of foodie shows like What Would Brian Boitano Eat, Avec Eric, Melissa's Ten Dollar Dinners, The Best Thing I Ate and more. I adore cooking shows, Chefs and anything on my TV chatting up foodie fare. Now I am just hoping to see more vegan challenges on Top Chef and even a few organic/vegan featured episodes on those FN food shows. Fingers crossed!

In terms of how we eat in 2010, I think Americans are cooking more vegetarian meals at home (due to health/economic/green values). Mainstream America is finally learning more about 'what veg*ns eat'. The big question used to be "What do vegetarians eat?" Now it seems to be "Where do vegetarians eat?" It's super easy to eat veg at home thanks to supermarkets like Whole Foods. Now if only the restaurants would catch up!

A foodie trend this past year has been gourmet, foodie-worthy food trucks. Love those. Mud Truck in NYC is iconic. So is Dessert Truck - wish they had vegan options. Also, vegan-friendly fast food is hot right now. Aka, Chipotle's ground-breaking Garden Blend experiment. Now if only they can get a veggie-only grill. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

For the Kids! I've been thrilled by the number of companies that have taken a special interest in children's health, lunches and healthy food products this year. Whole Foods Market ran its School Lunch Revolution program which brought in over $710,000 in donations. Veggie lunches in schools are on the rise - lets hope this continues through 2010. More vegan school lunches. It's my personal 'More Tempeh in Schools!' plight. I will not quiet myself until every first grader knows what tempeh is and can have an option of baked tempeh fingers vs chicken fingers. Tempeh sticks beat chicken any day of the week. Plus, I've been noticing more wellness-based kid and baby food brands popping up. Such as Tyler Florence's Sprout baby food brand.

What's a Vay-gen? Awareness. More awareness for special diets is needed. I don't mind if someone asks me what I can or cannot eat as a vegan. But if that 'someone' is the Chef at a restaurant, then I'm worried. Chefs, prep-cooks, sous chefs and anyone working in food service needs to know what vegan, gluten free, low sodium, kosher, organic, low-fat, nut-free and vegetarian really mean. Google is for gosh sakes. I don't want to resort to handing out little definition cue cards every time I eat out at a mainstream establishment.

More special requests: More soy milk options - everywhere! I am always shocked when I go to a brunch spot or breakfast sit down and there is no soy milk available in the restaurant kitchen for my tea or coffee. What is this 1980? No, it's 2010, well almost. Soy milk should be available everywhere dairy milk is served. Period.

Out with Vegetarian Menus! Another special request is that more restaurants replace their 'vegetarian menu' with a 'vegan menu' or vegan menu options. I don't know any vegetarian who wouldn't mind eating a vegan meal for one sitting. "Vegetarian options" are almost always loaded with cheese, milk, cream and butter. Why not just call it what it is: the cheese tasting menu. Just give me a good vegan option, just one per menu even, and I will be a happy diner - well it's a start anyways. If I hear one more restaurant manager say to me "Oh, we have plenty of vegetarian options," then proceeds to hand me a menu list with nothing but cheese-smothered food, I will scream. No more cheese please. Cheese, butter and cream are loaded with saturated fat and if you are a vegetarian who lives on a lot of 'dairy products' I highly suggest you take a close look at those nutrition labels and consider going vegan.

...on that note, I might start doing what Kristen from KristensRaw.com does: writing my special request on the restaurant receipt, like "If you served more vegan options, I'd eat here more often." or "If you served more organic foods I'd eat here more often." Nice idea Kristen.

And lastly, I hope we can all chill out in 2010 and remember the simple things in foodie life: a crisp organic apple, eaten whole. A bowl of raw cashews. A perfect pat of almond butter spread on some sprouted grain toast. Steel cut oats boiled into a creamy homemade oatmeal breakfast. A sweet caramel-essence tropical papaya for breakfast. Crisp clean pure drinking water. Chilled pure coconut water. A chunk of dark chocolate. A handful of blueberries. A bunch of black grapes. Fresh squeezed OJ. Fluffy brown rice. Warm simmering soup. Steamed sweet green broccoli. Tea with lemon. A frosty banana smoothie. A big green salad filled with garden fresh ingredients. Simplicity is bliss, foodies agree.

Happy 2010 everyone.

What would you rant about??? Feel free to rant me in the comments, I'd love to hear what you dream of in your foodie 2010 dreamworld.


Maple Grade B Syrup: the A, B, C's of it.

Maple Grade B Syrup is the new Grade A, mark my words foodies!

I love maple syrup. It is my #1 sweetener of choice. All natural, made from maple tree sap and animal product free. I mash it into sweet potatoes, drizzle it into soy yogurt, marinate savory-sweet tempeh with it, spoon it into smoothies, and whip it into baked goods. Ah, luscious maple syrup has an earthy caramel smell with woody notes of vanilla, one sniff and I am transported to a cozy log cabin in the woods overlooking a winter white snowbank. Inside, I sit fireside and sip tea, snugly in my soft slippers; in the kitchen fluffy pancakes sizzle on a hot grill and a tall pitcher of maple syrup on the table awaits my grasp.

The Grade B Myth.
My love affair with the maple leaf got quite complex as I realized that my true love Grade A syrup may not be my true love at all! Is it the scruffy, dark toned, musty Grade B syrup that my palate truly desires? And what about nutrient facts and a taste test? Drizzle on the A, B, C's of maple syrup grades...

Trader Joe's Grade B syrup.
Made in Quebec Canada. For weeks now something had caught my eye in the maple syrup section of Trader Joe's. It was my beloved sweetener, only the label read Maple Grade B syrup. Desiring only the highest in quality of syrups, I always grabbed the Grade A maple syrup. But last week I was feeling adventurous. So I reached out my arm, grabbed the Grade B syrup and crammed it in my crowded cart. My husband looked at me like I was nuts. "Grade B? Why would you buy that? Get the good stuff." He grabbed a Grade A in its shiny glass bottle. I shook my head and sped off down the aisle without him. I was an adventurous foodie, and this Grade B stuff needed a try. I'm such a syrup rebel.

Maple Grade B Syrup. Wow, when I tasted my freshly popped Grade B syrup I was in for a surprise. And I was pleased to learn that Grade B is higher in nutrients than grade A.

Grade A vs. Grade B.
Grade A syrup is produced early on in the season and is characterized by its light amber color. Lighter color, less minerals. Grade A is said to be the most preferred grade by consumers because of its light maple flavor and reminiscence of synthetic maple syrups, aka corn syrup based impostors. Grade B is produced later in the season and has a darker, grittier color, thicker viscosity, more robust maple flavor and more minerals. Grade B has a heavy maple flavor that lingers on your taste buds.

Tasting Notes: The Grade A tastes like simple sweetness, almost an agave sweet taste, then it develops on your tongue to give you a nice delicate maple flavor after taste. The Grade B hits you hard with a warm gritty maple flavor, then lingers for a while leaving a muted musty maple tone on your palate.

The Foodies Choice: Grade B? It is said that those with more sophisticated palates will prefer the Maple Grade B Syrup. Well, that's what my husband confirmed for me when I gave him a blind "A vs. B" taste test and he chose 'B' as the better tasting syrup. Several online blogs echo this verdict. Grade B flavor is more complex and robust. Chefs seeking a hearty maple flavor will likely choose the Grade B option. It is also true that you get more maple "bang for your buck" with Grade B. A strong flavor means you may have to use less syrup in your recipe to achieve your desired flavor. Pieces of Vermont website says, "For a long time Vermont Fancy was the preferred table syrup grade, but in recent years we've seen a shift. People are now opting for the robust flavor of Grade B as their "all-purpose" cooking and table syrup."

What is Maple Syrup? Back-up a bit maple newbies. Maybe you need the basics: what is maple syrup? Pure maple syrup is made from Maple Tree sap. The sap is boiled into a syrup. Here is a good explanation from MassMaple.org:

"Pure maple syrup is a 100% natural food, processed by heat concentration of pure maple sap. This sap is a sterile, clear liquid, which provides the trees with water and nutrients prior to the buds and leaves opening in the spring. In the boiling, concentrating, and filtering processes, all the nutrients remain in the syrup. There are some quantitative differences in maple syrup's nutritive composition due to metabolic and environmental differences among maple trees."

Grade B vs Grade A: Nutrition Facts.

*Grade B has 8% RDA of calcium per 1/4 cup serving, while Grade A only has 4% RDA of calcium per serving.

*All grades of maple syrup contain the minerals: zinc, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. Grade B contains higher quantities of these nutrients, the darker the color the more minerals are present.

*The vitamins that are present in trace amounts in maple syrup are B1, B2, B5, B6, biotin and folic acid.

more nutrient facts: http://www.massmaple.org/nutrition.html

Maple Syrup Fun Facts:

Fact: It takes on average 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. This amount can vary greatly depending on the sap sweetness level.

Q: What is the optimum temperature for maple sap flow?
A: The Human Connection: One of the most fascinating facts I learned about maple syrup production is in regards to the necessary climate temperature for optimal sap flow. The answer reminds me a lot of my hot/cold water therapy to stimulate blood circulation. Here is the answer from MassMaple.org:

"The tree's sap flow mechanisms depend on temperatures which alternate back and forth past the freezing point (32 degrees F.). The best sap flows come when nighttime temperatures are in the low 20's and daytime temperatures are in the 40's. The longer it stays below freezing at night, the longer the sap will run during the warm day to follow. If the weather gets too cold and stays cold, sap flow will stop. If the weather gets too warm and stays warm, sap flow will stop......For good sap production, maple producers must have the alternating warm/cold temperatures. This is why its so impossible to predict the outcome of the maple crop from year to year."

A living maple tree has better sap flow with varying hot/cold temperatures. Just like the hot/cold water therapy effect on our blood circulation.

What About Grade C? The mysterious and rare Grade C maple syrup is the obvious 'next tasting step' for any maple syrup connoisseur. According to current standards, the Grade C is only available to commercial clients who purchase large 40 gallon barrels of it.

Grade D? There are a few blurbs online suggesting that a Grade D maple syrup does exist. However, I have yet to find a credible source for this. Plus, there are quips that state that the old 'grade D' is now 'Grade C' and the old 'Grade C' is now 'Grade B'. Confusing yes, but oh so delicious! Just give me some high quality maple syrup and I am a happy foodie.

Master Cleanse. One of the reasons that Grade B maple syrup has gained more consumer demand is because it is one of the key components of The Master Cleanse by Stanley Burroughs, also called the Lemonade Diet. Other components of his diet include cayenne, lemons, sea salt and tea. You can even buy a complete Master Cleanse kit on Amazon (I have never tried this detox diet, and do not endorse it, but the Grade B factor does intrigue me.):

And PS, Thank you maple trees for your glorious maple syrup sweetness!


New Year Soba Noodles, Soba Facts and a Recipe.

Looking for a healthy and delicious recipe for your New Year's Eve feast? Ring in the New Year with soba noodles! Soba noodles are healthy, easy to make in advance and even quite traditional. Did you know that soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) are the cornerstone ingredient in a traditional Japanese New Year's Eve dish? The dish is called Toshikoshi Soba, which roughly means "year-end soba" or "year-passing soba". But watch out, it is considered bad luck if you do not finish your soba noodles by midnight. So quickly slurp up those 11:59pm noodles and countdown to a healthy, happy new year! Here are some Soba Facts and my recipe for Wasabi Citrus Soba Noodles with Beech Mushrooms. Happy New Year indeed!...

Soba 101. Frankly, I am still a soba noodle newbie. I've prepared soba a handful of times, but I have been pleased with my cravable results. I have yet to refine a peanut sauce-slathered soba dish, which is my favorite at Japanese restaurants. Any secrets out there? I'd love a few tips. But I must say, I love my recipe below that I can share with you all. It is light, tangy, spicy and citrus-infused.

Interestingly, preparing Japanese soba noodles is a lot more complex than preparing Italian semolina pasta (something I have done hundreds of times). Soba noodles can be served either hot or cold. Hot noodles are usually found in a soup or broth, while cold noodles are tossed in a variety of flavors and ingredient accents from peanut sauce to wasabi powder. On New Year's Eve, hot noodles are preferred. But I'm sure cold soba noodles, in all their tasty, slick, slurpable glory, would suffice. Cold soba is my prefernce.

A few Soba Noodle Facts:

*Soba noodles are one of the various types of Japanese noodles (udon, ramen, soba and shirataki). Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour, or a mix of buckwheat and other various flours or wild yam.

*Toshikoshi Soba, "year-end soba" is a traditional New Year's Eve dish in Japan. It is bad luck to not finish your soba before midnight. Soba is usually eaten cold, however on New Year's Eve the soba noodles are likely prepared and eaten warm with a side dashi sauce or dipping broth.

*Buckwheat isn't a grain. It is a relative of the rhubarb family.

*Soba noodles can be gluten free, since buckwheat is gluten free. Choose 100% buckwheat soba.

*Soba noodles (made of buckwheat) are a nutritional goldmine: "Nutritionally, buckwheat provides vitamins B1 and B2, the minerals potassium, magnesium, phosphate and iron (buckwheat contains more iron than cereal grains), and it has nearly twice the amount of the amino acid lysine found in rice. Buckwheat bran (farinetta) contains rutin, a flavonoid known to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and maintain the strength and flexibility of capillaries. A recently discovered compound in buckwheat called fagopyritol seems to have potential to help manage type II diabetes." - Dr. Weil on buckwheat.

*Soba noodles are traditionally prepared from scratch and sliced by hand. The measurements for each soba noodle are crucial - as each noodle must be the exact same size.

*Soba noodles are a common food find when dining out in Japan. You will see them served casually at street carts and fast food vendors, as well as in the most modern and upscale of fine dining restaurants. Like all things, the taste, nutrition and quality of soba will vary based on the ingredients, preparation, freshness and serving variation used.

*Cold soba noodles may be flavored with green tea, wasabi, peanut, miso, various seaweeds, sesame and more. Soba noodles have a mild flavor that easily compliments various ingredient accents.

*Cold Soba Noodles are commonly found in the appetizers section of American Japanese restaurant menus, however a big bowl of cold soba can actually be a quite substantial vegetarian meal all on its own.

*Various health claims often come when soba is discussed: "The following is the summary of the major health benefits of buckwheat: Decreases cholesterol, Lowers blood pressure, Reduces fat accumulation, Promotes healthy bowel movements, Fits a well-balanced and low-calorie diet. Buckwheat also contains choline. Choline, a compound in the vitamin B complex that plays an important role in metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and decreases cholesterol." -Dr.Oshimi, healthhokkaido.com

Beech Mushrooms. I adore using beech mushrooms in cold soba noodle recipes. Beech shrooms are like extra large enoki mushrooms. They are tender, slippery and delicate to bite. They absorb flavors very well and can be eaten hot or cold. If you can't find beech mushrooms, try enoki mushrooms. If you can't find enoki mushrooms, try a traditional shiitake mushroom. Shiitake shrooms are less delicate, so they will require more cooking time than beech or enoki. If you can't find fresh shrooms, try canned straw mushrooms.

Preparing Soba Noodles. Coming from an Italian family, I have a great passion for all things Italian. And pasta is one of those things. But as I was about to learn, not all noodles are created equal. For pasta marinara, I simply boil some dry noodles in salted water, drain the noodles, then toss them in some warm marinara pasta sauce. Serve, garnish, voila! But preparing buckwheat noodles is quite a different process...

How to Make Cold Soba. Here's what worked for me:

1. I bought some Eden brand Wild Yam Soba at Whole Foods Market (along with various other products in the 'Asian' section of Whole Foods: umeboshi, pickled ginger, wasabi powder, mandarin oranges, canned water chestnuts, Japanese soup mix, and a good soy sauce.) I also picked up some beech mushrooms, fresh ginger, cilantro, parsley, tangerines and fresh scallions from the produce department.

2. Read the instructions on the package! No matter what variety of noodle you buy, read the instructions first. They will likely give you a bit of insight on your noodle and how to prepare it in a traditional manner. But this process worked for me.

3. As I researched, I learned that soba noodles are best when boiled in a highly seasoned broth, as they will absorb a lot of the liquid during the cooking process. My broth was a mixture of dried seaweed (from my soup mix), soy sauce, citrus, mushroom powder and sesame seeds. (See recipe below.) Boil noodles for 6 to 8 minutes.

4. While the noodles are boiling, prepare an ice bath of water in a large bowl.

5. After 6-8 minutes, drain noodles in the sink, BUT don't dump the remaining broth, collect it in a bowl for further use in your meal. You can serve the broth as a side soup or use it to prepare rice, tofu or various saute dishes. I used my broth to saute the beech mushrooms that graced the top of my soba noodle dish.

6. Dunk the drained noodles into your ice bath. Then rinse the noodles under cold water to further chill and wash the cooked noodles. Note: This may feel extremely odd to chill freshly cooked noodles, but trust me, cold soba is delicious!

7. Lastly, I tossed my drained and cold-water-rinsed noodles in a bit of experimental sauce. I used various flavors of wasabi, sesame oil, sesame seeds, citrus, soy sauce, scallion, cilantro and peanut. (see recipe) I then placed the noodles in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.

8. While the noodles were chilling, I sauteed my beech mushrooms in a bit of leftover broth. I then placed them in a separate bowl and let them chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Toss cold and enjoy.

As promised, here is the complete recipe for my Wasabi Citrus Soba Noodles. My full meal on "Asian Night" consisted of: Wasabi Citrus Soba Noodles with Beech Mushrooms, pickled ginger, umeboshi plums, wasabi paste, tofu-veggie rice paper wraps, mandarin-ginger tossed arugula greens and lychee bellinis to sip on the side. Fortune cookies too (because Whole Foods had some for sale, and I love those little paper fortunes.)

Here is my soba noodle recipe in full:

Wasabi Citrus Soba Noodles, with Beech Mushrooms

1 package Soba Noodles, 8.8 ounces
*I used Eden brand Wild Yam Soba Noodles
Boiling Broth:
2 tangerines, juiced and zested
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp wasabi powder
3 umeboshi plums, de-pitted and added whole
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 packet of vegan "Japanese Soup" mix
*I used San-J brand vegan Wakame soup with shiitake mushrooms
Cold Toss-In Ingredients:
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup salted peanuts
1/4 cup sea salted sesame seeds
1 tsp wasabi powder
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup scallions, chopped thin
2 tsp garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
1 cup broth-sauteed beech or enoki mushrooms
black pepper to taste
optional: more citrus (tangerines, oranges, mandarins or minolas), peeled and diced


1. Prepare boiling broth by adding 3 1/2 cups of water to soup pot. Add in all broth ingredients: tangerine juice and zest, fresh grated ginger, agave syrup, black pepper, wasabi powder, umeboshi plums, soy sauce and soup mix. Bring broth to a boil.

2. Add in the dry soba noodles. Make sure the noodles are completely covered with water. If you need to add more liquid, add more water as needed.

3. Boil noodles for 6-8 minutes. While boiling, prepare a big bowl of ice water bath. You can also prep the toss-in ingredients while the noodles are boiling (chop the scallions, etc.)

4. After 6-8 minutes drain noodles, however do not toss the boiling broth down the drain - save it in a separate bowl. This leftover broth can be used as a flavoring ingredient in other dishes or even sipped as a soup on its own.

5. Immediately submerge the noodles (still in a strainer) into the ice bath. Rinse the noodles very well with ice cold water. Toss to remove excess water. Set aside. Dry well with air. Dry them on a bamboo mat if you have one.

6. You can now prepare the beech or enoki mushrooms by lightly sauteing them in the leftover broth and a bit of oil. I used a tsp of olive oil, but use whatever you'd like. Allow cooked mushrooms to chill in fridge. Drizzle a few drops of sesame oil on top if you'd like. Sesame oil is best when added cold to salads and noodles. It is not ideal for heat.

7. Next, add cold noodles to a large mixing bowl and toss with the flavoring ingredients: sesame oil, sesame seeds, wasabi powder, peanuts, chopped cilantro or parsley, pepper, scallions, garlic, mushrooms and optional citrus. Only use half your portion of mushrooms for the toss-in. The other half will be used as a garnish.

8. Place noodles and shrooms in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes before serving. These noodles also taste divine the next day. Cold soba is delicious and healthy. Serve on New Year's Eve for an extra special traditional Japanese treat!

...but finish those noodles before midnight! (I don't think that will be too hard.)


Dairy-Free Remedy for My Bad Pepper Burn. StoryTime!

Last night I slept with my hand in a big bowl of iced soy milk. Not the most enjoyable of Christmas night slumbers, let me assure you. But it was necessary. Why? Was I trying out some new-fangled beauty regimen? Was I softening my cuticles? Dry skin remedy? Anti-aging hoopla? Nope. Twas the night of Christmas, and all though my home, I was screaming in pain, felt like flames down to the bone...

A Spicy Christmas Tale. Here's my Christmas tale of why you can never be too careful when cooking with hot, spicy peppers and chilies. Plus my surprising dairy-free remedy for pain relief...

Christmas Fiesta. This year, we were trying out a new tradition: a Christmas Dinner Fiesta!

The menu: fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa verde, white corn tortilla chips with a thin layer of melted FYH vegan cheese on top, organic corn tortillas, sauteed sweet plantains, vegan sour cream, Mexican rice, black beans, agave-lime tempeh cubes and a giant bowl of crisp greens with diced citrus, doused in a bit of lime, agave and pomegranate dressing. Extra black pepper. Plus an extra special side dish: mushroom stuffed roasted poblano peppers. Stuffed with red wine, chipotle pepper, shallot and roasted tomatillo sauteed exotic mushrooms.

Spicy as can be. I whipped this meal together and we were chowing down in no time. Delicious, and quite a fun was to spend Christmas. So how in the world did I end my night a la soy milk?...

Caution: Peppers. Usually when I'm cooking with any type of spicy pepper: jalapenos, poblanos, habaneros or serranos, I take extreme caution to avoid touching the spicy seeds and inner vein of the pepper. I am most cautionary when cooking with habanero (Scotch Bonnet) peppers. However, last night I wasn't terribly cautious with my poblonos and small jalapeno. I yanked out the seeds and ripped out the stems with my bare hands. I was hurried and just wasn't thinking. No gloves, no caution - just hands all over those seeds and stem. Yikes.

I was fine, until I turned on the gas burner, and clenched my hand around a wooden spoon, stirring and sauteing the spicy mushrooms as a thick steamy spicy heat wafted over my chile-rubbed hands. Spicy steam: another dangerous kitchen occurrence. You know, the steam that clears your sinuses in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, two of my fingers were on fire! Not literally, but they were burning in chile-burn pain. Ouch.

I'm hungry. So I ate. But the pain only got worse as dinner went on. I washed my hands in warm soapy water, but that only irritated the pain (and further dried my parched winter skin hands). The winter air and pre-holiday house cleaning had made my hands extra dry that day. Pain. Burning. I kept telling my husband that it felt like someone was "grinding a blunt rusted knife into my finger." I've experienced chile burns before, but this was hands down the worst ever.

Remedies? My husband's immediate answer to everything is to 'google it'. So he sprang for his laptop like a reindeer on a rooftop. I had already stuck my hand in a big bag of ice to ease the pain, but I knew that it was only numbing the problem and not helping it. Thus the top googled remedies by my hubby were:

1. Lime or lemon juice (lots of it) for a a few minutes.
2. Milk or dairy (a good soak in it).
3. Washing your hands in warm soapy water.
4. Rubbing alcohol, applied liberally. Then rinsed off.
5. Rubbing the flesh of a lemon or lime on the skin.
6. Salt. (Yeah right, that sounds painful!)

So there I was wrist-deep in seething burn pain and my husband was in the kitchen squeezing the limes and prepping the ice packs.

Remedies Tried:

1. Lime Juice. We juiced a big fat juicy lime and soaked my hand in the juice for a good minute. I have to say there was a strange immediate reduction in pain. But it didn't last. Errrr! (Big negative buzzer sound for this attempt.)

2. Rubbing Alcohol. Next we tried wiping my hand in rubbing alcohol. Errrr! Same effect as the lime juice. Nothing.

3. Got Milk? Well since we don't drink dairy milk in my house, we just didn't have any! So I stuck to eating my dinner while my hand was covered in ice packs - the plastic kind. I pondered soy milk, but didn't give it a try (yet).

Somehow I got through dinner and even through clean up and into my snugglies. Into bed and lights out. But suddenly the pain got worse. It felt like someone had taken sandpaper to my skin and started rubbing through the flesh and right onto the bone, then they dunked my hand in a barrel of flames and started slicing into my finger with a dirty knife. Trust me, this chile burn hurt. Emergency room? Ugh, not on Christmas! Although the pain was so bad that it did cross my mind. But what would they do? If they dunked my hand in whole milk ice cream I'd cry. Or laugh, if the pain went away... Anyways! I decided to try some aspirin and another ice pack. This helped. Lights out.

Lights on! Ouchie! I was screaming and whining like a little girl getting her first flu shot. I was in pain and didn't know what to do! Dairy. I knew that the scientific remedy for any spicy food (hot mouth or hot hand) was dairy. But no, I wasn't sending my husband out to the 24 hour CVS drug store for a gallon of cow milk - for my hand.

I screamed, "Get me a bowl of soy milk!!!"

He brought a nice bowl of chilled soy milk. My hand, feeling like it was about to burn off into a charred bit, was dunked into the soy.....

"Ahhhhhhhh." Wow. Immediate relief. Something about the combination of liquid and milk, even if it was the bean kind, really really helped. I felt like I had just come in from a blizzard and was submerged into a hot bath. It was heaven. The pain was almost completely gone.

...but my crazy night doesn't end there folks.

Incredibly tired, I passed out, hand in milk. I woke up a few minutes later and decided I shouldn't go to sleep with a bowl of milk by my side, so I handed the bowl to my husband to take into the kitchen.

Splash! Slosh! Darn, somehow the milk decided to leap from its bowl and all over the floor. Winter white soy milk mess. Thankfully I got to stay snug in bed while my gracious husband cleaned it up. Tired, oh so tired. Snore. Zzzzzz.

...Awake again! Pain is back! Need more milk.

This time we did a bowl of soy milk and a few ice cubes. I fell asleep, hand in bowl. I woke up around 3am with soggy wrinkled fingers. I groggily placed the bowl on the floor. Luckily, the pain had almost disappeared by then. My hand air-dried with a nice coating of soy milk as I fell back asleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. I woke up around 10am the next morning with zero pain. Amen.

The Moral of the Story. When cooking with peppers and chilies (no matter what their heat level) use extreme caution, especially if your skin is already dry from environmental or lifestyle conditions. Chapped winter hands and pepper seeds do not mix well.

The Remedy: If you get a bad pepper burn, try soy milk! It worked for me. (No dairy needed. Once again.)


Merry Christmas to You!

Dear HHL Readers,

I hope you have a healthy, happy, joyful and peaceful holiday. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Thanks so much for reading Healthy. Happy. Life.


"Christmas. It's not the giving. It's not the getting. It's the loving." - Garfield the Cat.


Stress-Free in 20 Minutes: Pre-Travel Routine. Zen2Go.

Traveling this week or the next? We all dread the unavoidable stress of travel. Most of us handle it quite well, but even Deepak Chopra must have a breaking point: one too many elbow shoves, a rude 'bah humbug' employee, an extra long line at airport security - weaving its way around the corner and out the door like a snake, train delays, unfriendly car traffic, beeps, honks, furrowed brows, the phrase "We're lost", crowds, mobs, delayed signs blinking and twinkling like Christmas tree lights, boarding row 1 when you're row 65, missing your flight (or 'missing' your flight by-the-counter-clerks-definition, when the plane hasn't taken off yet), and anything that involves the phrase severe weather delay.

Am I There Yet? You can't wait for your destination, but it would be nice to arrive in one, solid, less-than-frazzled piece, right? Well give me 20 minutes of your travel day, and I'll give you a to-go baggie of 'zen'. Start off on a zen foot, and you just might retain that state of mind until you arrive at your destination. Get stress-free in 20 minutes....

"All Aboard! We will now be boarding passengers by order of 'zen'. All calm, collected, stress-free passengers may now board. We appreciate your zen." -In My Dreams Air.

Work a Miracle. No miracles here. Just a hardcore session of 'you time'. It's easy to forget how easy de-stressing yourself can be. It only takes a few minutes of time (devoted 100% to yourself) to attain a stress-free mood. The wellness techniques I use are simple: breathing, aromatherapy, stretching, hot/cold water therapy and a good old fashioned $1.99 epsom salt bubble bath. No, I cant assure you that your travel plans will be hassle-free. But set aside these activities and you'll be feeling much zenner en route to your holiday.

Stress-Free in 20 Minutes: Pre-Travel Routine and Guide.

Before you begin, make sure that your bags are packed, your luggage is by the door, your tickets are in your carry-on bag and all your loose ends are tied up. Then say, "OK honey, I'm giving myself 20 minutes to de-stress." Don't take no for an answer, and do this routine.

Location: Since this guide involves a bath/shower etc. You will be using the bathroom as your zen sanctuary. Close the door. Do not disturb sign, optional.

Set-Up: Tools should be out and ready to go.

Tools: face mask, skin brush, aromatherapy oils, epsom salts, bubble bath, washcloth, bathrobe, peppermint and/or eucalyptus body oils or cream/lotion, a packed to-go zen bag (see below). For oils/lotions, bubble bath/mask - brands/stores I love: Aveda, Origins, Whole Foods Whole Body section.

Preparation: Slather a nice cooling mask on your face, something with an aloe vera or calendula base is perfect. If you stick the mask container in the fridge the night before, it will be ice cold and oh-so-soothing. I also love Dr. Weil's Origins brand Plantidote mask. It's a tissue-off mask, perfect for this quick de-stressing routine. You will wash the mask off at the end of the 20 minutes. Next, start running a hot bath. Fill it with 1 1/2 cups of epsom salts and a few squeezes of your fave bubble bath. Add a few peppermint, rose, citrus and/or eucalyptus essential oil drops if you'd like.

1. Minutes 0-4: Breathing.
Yes 4 minutes of deep, focused breathing are crucial to your zen euphoria. Why is breathing important? Find out in breathing 101 here. Here's the drill:

Close your eyes.
Breath in deeply through your mouth, for 5 counts.
Breath out slowly through your mouth for 5 counts.

Repeat once.

Breath in through your nose for 5 counts.
Breath out through your mouth for 5 counts.

Repeat twice.

Breath in through nose for 7 counts.
(Hold for ten seconds.)
Breath out through mouth for 10 counts.

Repeat once.

Do this for 4 minutes.

2. Minutes 5-8: Skin Brushing and Stretching
Skin brushing is a great way to prep for a long trip where you probably wont have the time to get a good skin brush in. Grab your skin brush. See the how-to, skin detox 101 guide here. And start brushing. But as you brush, squeeze in a few light stretches, touch your toes, stretch your arms high and low, legs, light standard stretches will get that blood flowing and loosen your muscles. Skin brush (and stretch) for 4 minutes.

3. Minutes 9-13: Quick Soak
This will probably be the quickest bubble bath you've ever had, but it's just enough time to soak in those zen-inducing epsom salts and get your blood flowing to your toes and fingers. Ah, feels so good you barely want to get out right? How about a nice nap right about now, no travel. Nap. Zzzzzzz. Sorry guys, we only have 20 minutes and a plain/train/automobile to catch. Out of the tub. But don't worry, the next step in this guide will wake you up!

4. Minutes 14-16: Hot/Cold Shower
First, read more about hot/cold water therapy here. Out of the hot tub, you're tired and incredibly zen, but you're traveling so you need some energy! You now must turn on a nice cold shower. Yup. Icy cold. As cold as you can stand it. Do this:

Cold Shower: 30 seconds
Warm shower: 1 minute
Cold Shower: 45 seconds (get that face cold too!)
Warm Shower: 15 seconds
Everyone out of the pool!

5. 17-20: Dry off and oil up.
Pat yourself dry with a clean washcloth. Now slather yourself in a zen-smelling body oil or shea butter (rich) body cream. Perhaps a peppermint essential oil containing product. Products to buy? The essential oil section of Whole Foods will have a few nice zen-themed body oils. Aveda and Origins are also great mainstream stores. Rub the body oil/cream in very well, so that you don't get your travel clothes 'wet'. The oils will keep you feeling moisturized all day long (and we know how dehydrating travel can be.) Lastly, rub some oil of the side temples of your head for a few seconds, as you close your eyes and do a few more deep breaths. Put on your clothes, brush those teeth and open the door feeling zen, calm and ready to face the mobs of travelers who are probably a lot less zen than you. They will be so jealous of your zen 'happy cat' smile as you wait in a 90 minute airport security line (smelling like a field of peppermint and citrus nonetheless).

And you're off! Be sure to bring a nice zen-to-go pack for your travel adventures. Sorry if your airline won't allow this to be carried on, but here is what I advise, modify as needed:
*1-2 tetrapaks of chilled coconut water poured into a resealable container for easy sipping on the go.
*Lip Balm, natural shea butter based
*Eye mask, peppermint essenced preferably (Origins has a great peppermint eye mask).
*Small container of essential oil infused cream/lotion/body oil, to massage into your temple and breath in deeply. Just a little dab will do. As stated above, I love Origins Peace of Mind. I also love Aveda's Blue Oil Stick: Blue Oil Balancing Concentrate $13.40 for a travel size.
*Zen Sounds. iPod, earphones, a few 'nice sounds' loaded on your playlist. Well-charged up for a long flight. Noise cancelling headphones would be lovely as well. You'll thank me when the child sitting behind you spends the entire 4 hour flight playing with his new very loud firetruck Christmas present. (True story.)
*A small baggie of natural peppermint gum and face towelettes. Herban Essentials brand, available online or at Whole Foods, makes amazing towelettes. I love the 'Yoga' blend or also the variety pack with lemon, peppermint and lavender varieties in one bag.
*A treat. Some raw cashews, dark chocolate, a few homemade holiday cookies or a muffin. Bring a homemade treat on the road (and even more than you think you'll want to eat), you'll thank me in that third layover hour. Also, fresh fruit (for those who can travel with it), is always a total energizer and hydrator. I love an apple or bag of grapes on the road.

Good luck, safe traveling and happy happy holidays.


Top 5 Worst Last-Minute Gifts: Do Not Buy!

The final week of holiday shopping can get pretty hectic and intense. Buy this, wrap that, save on these and don't forget to drop those cards in the mailbox (the ones that have been perched on your counter top all week.)

Last minute shopping should only be attempted by the calm and skilled. Last minute shoppers are embarking upon an obstacle course that puts Family Double Dare to shame: pushy sales people, long lines, free gift-wrapping (if you're lucky) and 'longer holiday hours' are enough to send even the coolest of heads diving straight into a barrel of soy nog. An ill-prepared shopper is likely to fall into an unforgiving and sometimes embarrassing last-minute gift-giving trap. Here is my top five list of the worst last-minute gifts. Do not buy...

Top 5 Worst Last-Minute Gifts: Do not Buy!

1. Anything from Starbucks
I know, I know. We all love a hefty Starbucks gift card now and then, but nothing says "I'm thinking of you, but only when I'm in line ordering my daily Venti Latte" more than a holiday gift from Starbucks. Mugs, exotic coffee, sweet treats, coffee presses and (I really hope not) instant Via coffee gift sets. I know the Starbucks festive red and silver trinkets are tempting to a last-minute shopper on the run, but mark my words: get your latte and head to a real store.

2. A Drug Store Gift Card, via email
When I saw this headline in an email, I almost burst out laughing (or crying):
"Forgot someone? It's not too late! Virtual CVS Gift Cards by Email!"
If you must do something via email at the last minute, simply send a nice long note of 'hello'. A personal note beats an emailed drug store gift card any day. (I would prefer to pay for my own antacids, pain relievers and toothpaste, thank you.)

3. Airport Gifts: I Heart (insert city here)
You're going to visit Aunt Gina in San Francisco, and you have a layover in Los Angeles. Giftless and desperate, you turn to your only hope: the in-house-airport shops. Don't do it, even when the "I Love LA" gift store beckons you with its glossy magazines and loaded candy racks at the door. No, it's not OK to buy Aunt Gina and the gang "I heart LA" tees and Rodeo Drive themed gifts.

Those airport gift shops are incredibly tempting, but resist, resist! No one really wants an $80 designer pen in a nice gift wrapped box or a 'duty free' Chanel perfume gift set, anyways. OK, so maybe some do, but its the principle of it folks! And think about this: the "so where did you buy this?!" question just may pop up, and do you really want to answer: "Terminal five...the airport".

4. $Lots of Money$ on Winter Apparel
Pretty pink scarves all lovely and plush. Warm woolen gloves hanging in a row. A big puffy hat lined with snowflake-blue fleece. A giant silver sequined sweater, perfect for a snugly snow day. This is a common path that last minute shoppers take: buy the beautiful window-placed winter apparel. It's new, seasonal, festive, fun and perfect to wear Christmas day! You know your present will get tons of immediate use, right? Right. So why is this such a bad last minute gift?

On Sale, Tomorrow.
Its a pretty safe bet that although you purchased $100 of sweaters, gloves, scarves and hats on December 24th, come December 26th those luxurious gifts will be slashed in price and placed on the sale rack. $60 JCrew scarf: slashed down to $19.99. $100 Bloomingdale's sweater: slashed down to $39.99. Just a few examples you are likely to see. There is nothing worse than seeing your precious last minute gifts slung up on the sale rack just a few days after your glorious gift-giving moment. If all they want is winter apparel, go for the gift card, and head to the stores December 26th.

5. Re-Gifted Anything.
It's tempting, but this is another big no no. You need a last minute gift, like in the next few hours, what to do?! You recall a beautiful tag-still-on black scarf that you received in the office Secret Santa gift exchange. Hmmm. That would be too easy. Why not? Cousin Sally will never know right? Right. But you will know.

I must admit, one year I received an absolutely beautiful red glass crystal-shimmering bird feeder in the office Secret Santa. It was stunning. Unfortunately, I didn't have anywhere to hang this bird feeder, since I was an urban apartment dwelling girl. So, I re-gifted the bird feeder to my bird-adoring sister who indeed had a place to hang it. I honestly can't remember if I ever told her it was a re-gift, ha! She knows now. But I'll never forget how slimy I felt after giving her that gosh darn bird feeder. True, it was beautiful and something I might have even bought for her had I seen it, but to this day I feel weird and a bit guilty about not going out to a store and finding something on my own. If you enjoy the gift giving process, it should be about taking the time to truly embrace the experience of picking out a gift. Re-gifted anything, something your assistant bought or a 'cash only' gift really doesn't embrace the one characteristic all gifts should have: thoughtfulness. (And FYI, I'm not opposed to giving away 'unwanted' or can't-be-used-by-you gifts. Just try not to make it a habit, or a crutch. And besides, isn't half the fun of gifting, the shopping?)

Other Gift Traps to Avoid:
*The IOU gift. I say you have a 50/50 shot of ever fulfilling a gift IOU, aka promise-to-gift.
*The "Employee Discount" Gift. Even though you get 30% off, remember you're not fooling anyone, we all know you did. The employee-discount gift does work for some folks, but not others. You know who you are...
*"I Like This!" Gift. Just because you like it, doesn't mean they will. Remember that advice.


12 Days of Vegan Treats: Lyrics and Snow Angels.

I am so overjoyed to have finished my 12 Days of Vegan Treats series. Now if I could only say the same for my gift shopping. Such fun. Though I enjoyed each and every post, my favorite series recipes are the Spelt Sugar Cookies, the to-die-for Holiday French Toast, the Walnutcracker Cookies and my cravable Fried Golden Fuyus.

Vocals Tuned?
So now that my twelve holiday recipes are posted, we can joyfully nibble through these last holiday days and perhaps even sing the "vegan treats" song too. I'm convinced, just one round of these lyrics belted out to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas song: it's just what your Monday needs! And I'll even show you photos of my very first snow angel of the winter season. Vocals tuned?
Fa la la...

The 12 Days of Vegan Treats Song
by: Kathy, healthy-happy-life.com
*to be sung to the tune of the "12 Days of Christmas" song*

On the first day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, a North Pole Peppermint Chai just for me.

On the second day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the third day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the fourth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the fifth day of Vegan Treats my true love gave to me, Five Golden Fuyus!
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the sixth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Six Soy Nogs Swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the seventh day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs Swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the eighth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the ninth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Nine Snowflakes Dancing,
Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the tenth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Ten Muffins rising,
Nine Snowflakes dancing,
Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the eleventh day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Eleven Cornballs Popping,
Ten Muffins rising,
Nine Snowflakes dancing,
Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

On the twelfth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, Twelve Walnutcracker Cookies,
Eleven Cornballs Popping,
Ten Muffins rising,
Nine Snowflakes dancing,
Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus.
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)


You can see the complete 12 Days of Vegan Treats recipe links here.

Snow Angels. Yes!
And this weekend I was blessed with snow, so here are my very first snow angels photos of the season, as promised:

Snow Angel, a la natural:

Snow Angel, photoshopped for optimum viewing:

Snow Angel, in process:


Walnutcracker Cookies: 12th Day of Vegan Treats!

On the twelfth day of Vegan Treats, my true love gave to me, twelve Walnutcracker Cookies,

Eleven Cornballs popping,
Ten Muffins rising,
Nine Snowflakes Dancing,
Eight Snowman Crispies,
Seven Flutes of Cinnamon,
Six Soy Nogs swirling,
Five Gol-den Fuyus,
Four Coconut Snowballs,
Three French Toasts,
Two Cups of Cocoa,
and a North Pole Peppermint Chai (just for me.)

The Sugarplum Fairy will be Jealous. I saved the best for last guys. My Walnutcracker Spice Cookies are divine! Three types of walnut accents invade each moist, chewy crevice: raw walnuts, walnut oil and candied walnuts. Plus there is warm cinnamon, cayenne and fresh ginger spices speckled throughout. All doused in a fresh layer of snowy white powdered sugar. Make these cookies...

Act One. Walnuts. Lots of them. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fats (including those healthy omegas) and fiber. You should be able to find candied walnuts at most grocery stores. But if you can't find them simply pan toast some crushed walnut pieces in 1 Tbsp of canola oil and 1 Tbsp of maple syrup for a few minutes. Toss in a pinch of sea salt. Allow to cool before processing in food chopper. But really, the bagged candied walnuts are much easier. I used Trader Joe's brand of Candied Walnuts.

Intermission. These are the perfect morning time tea cookie. They are loaded with wake-you-up spices and the smell of cinnamon and orange zest will liven even the most groggy of eyes. Take a break from your busy day and make these sweet vegan treats.

The Finale. Like I said, I saved the best recipe for last. This one is a keeper! My suggestion: Turn up the volume on your Nutcracker Suite iPod music and get in the kitchen to make these spicy, nutty, powder-sugar embraced cookies. The Sugarplum Fairy will be jealous. Heavenly smells, flavors and giggles await you...

Walnutcracker Spice Cookies
vegan, makes 20 cookies

2 cups raw walnuts, processed into walnut meal
1 1/2 cups candied walnuts, processed into candied walnut meal
*I used Trader Joe's brand candied walnuts (walnuts, sugar, canola oil, salt ingredients)
1 1/2 + 1 Tbsp Spelt Flour
1/2 cup vegan sugar, organic evaporated cane juice crystals
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
7 dashes cayenne (about 1/8 tsp)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup raisins, processed into raisin meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp walnut oil
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp fresh orange zest, grated
topping: bowl of powdered sugar for dipping


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Process your 2 cups of walnuts into a fine walnut meal (using a food processor or mini food chopper). Pour raw walnut meal into a large mixing bowl.

3. Add to the large bowl: sugar, salt, baking powder, spelt flour, cinnamon, cayenne. Mix until well blended.

4. In your food processor, blend your candied walnuts into a meal. Pour into a side bowl.

5. Then add your raisins to your food processor and mince those into fine little bits. They should become a bit 'wet'. Add the minced raisins to the candied walnut meal and set aside.

6. Add your liquids to your dry mix in the large bowl: vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, soy milk, walnut oil. Blend with a spoon until you have a nice ball of damp dough.

7. Fold in the candied walnuts and raisins mixture. Blend well. Add in a pinch of extra spelt flour if you like to handle a drier dough.

8. Place your bowl of dough in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up a bit. (This step isn't necessary, but will allow you to handle the dough better for rounder dough balls.)

9. Prepare a lightly greased or wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Using the palms of your hands, roll 1/2 golf ball sized sphere cookies, dunk in a bit of powdered sugar and place on the cookie sheets. Continue until all the dough is used.

10. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes.

11. Remove sheets from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes before dunking each warm cookie back into your powdered sugar bowl. Transfer sugared cookies to a baking wrack to cool for five-ten more minutes before serving.

Store in freezer or fridge for longer term eating. Store on counter for 1-2 days.