Saturday, December 22, 2007

holiday baking and gifting



view from our bedroom window-Toto, we're not in Syracuse any more...

Last week, right before we left Syracuse, I did a marathon day of cookie baking, and here is what I made:



chocolate-drizzled samoas



peanuttiest blondies, courtesy of Vegan Diva- we also made these last year, and they are Daiku's favorites



lemon-poppyseed cookies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan- these were awesome!



mini chocolate-chip cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance



Here is the completed selection (along with My Sweet Vegan's pfeffernusse and VwaV ginger cookies). Do you notice a problem...? While all the cookies tasted great, they were all practically the same shade of beige! This happened to me last year, too. I will have to do something about it next year!

So far, we have given these cookies to our families on the east coast, the west coast, and everywhere in between, and they all seem to love them. Success!

Also sticking with our home-made, minimalist holiday aesthetic are these chai kits that we have given to friends:



The trick to making homemade chai kits (or similarly, mulling spice kits) is to find a good source of bulk spices. In my case, I used organic cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, candied ginger, nutmeg, and dried orange zest. I put these together along with some black tea (bulk black tea from Iran) in unbleached teabags, and some instructions, and voilà! An easy and fun way for our friends to brew themselves something warm and comforting. I think you can make chai kits with any kind of tea you want- I bet rooibos would go well, or something herbal, or green...

Speaking of gifting, I was so happy to finally meet Textual Bulldog in real life last week! And I was beyond happy when she gave us a huge tin of holiday cookies:



including chocolate chip, chocolate walnut, (not pictured, because we ate them too quickly!) iced sugar cookies, and the piece de resistance: chocolate cookies with crushed Trader Joe's candy cane joe-joe's! These were genius cookies. And notice how she, unlike me, managed to bake colorful and non-monochromatic cookies. Thank you, TB!



This is a good time to talk about one of my favorite baking ingredients- Frontier brand fair trade vanilla that I buy in bulk from the food co-op. This has changed my baking- I can never go back to regular vanilla extract. This stuff is so good, and has such a pure, strong flavor. It is suspended in glycerin instead of alcohol, so it's thicker and heavier- I usually use half of the vanilla called for in a recipe. The result is a baked good with a soft, round, mellow yet assertive vanilla flavor, with none of the sharp, overpowering, cloying, or artificial notes of other vanilla extracts that I have tried. If you come across this vanilla, give it a try. Like me, you may never go back.

Happy holiday baking and gifting, everybody! I'm continually in awe of all your fantastic, home-made goodies.
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22 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

ahhh that picture of paradise looks fantastic!! quite tempting as well, since all I see outside my window is snow ;0)

wow, the cookies, samoas, blondies, and the homemade chai kit (how fun!) look sensational! yum!

I had no idea that you could buy vanilla in bulk like that!! I will definitely look for it - especially since you recommend it so much over the extract!

Happy holidays, Bazu :0)

urban vegan said...

Welcome back from a well deserved break...Chai kits? You are now officially the vegan Martha Stewart (except for the insider trading)

Vegetation said...

Those chai kits are a great idea, and I also think your monochromatic cookies look delicious! Most of mine come out the same colour too, doesn't affect the taste though....mmmm....cooookies.

Blind Judo Project said...

Those cookies look amazing. Bazu where are my cookies?
Wheeler-

bittersweetblog said...

Hey, who cares about having colorful cookies if they all taste awesome anyways? It sounds like you've got a delicious assortment there!

Dori said...

I clicked me way over here to say Happy Holiadys and to catch up, but I am to busy drooling over the wonderful cookies you made!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Mmmm I still have to try those Samoas! Your food alwys looks so wonderful.

aTxVegn said...

How funny I was complaining to myself that all my cookies looked the same shade! I decided the packaging is supposed to provide the color...

Your samoas look great again. I've made the peanut blondies and are so good. And the chai kits are a wonderful gift idea!

Looks like you're enjoying your time off - have fun!

Candi said...

What a great idea with the chai kits! I am so impressed with gifts like that!

I think the cookies are great and didn't really think much about the colors until you mentioned it! I was thinking about which one I'd eat first! :)

Vanilla in bulk is a good idea, especially when it's one whose flavor you love! Fair trade too! Makes me miss my co-op out in Seattle. :( I'll look for it out here though!

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

the chai tea kits are too cool. i would love to get that as a present.

Vegan_Noodle said...

And I'm in awe of your cookie baking! Even if they are monochromatic (this is tought o avoid with baked goods I think). And those chai kits are such a cute idea!! I may be stealing this idea from you next year :-)

And of course, I'm a total believer in that Frontier vanilla as well. TOo bad I've never found it in bulk....

Hope you're enjoying the different scenery (and some warmer temps!)

Village Vegan said...

Mmm...those all look delicious. Especially the vegan samoas! I have to make those.

theONLYtania said...

Ohh your cookies look good! Who cares about color.. it's about the taste! I like the chocolate drizzle. Neat plate too. Thanks for the vanilla tip.. I'll look for it! Happy holidays!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

The cookies look scrumptious! Happy Holidays, love!

Theresa said...

I think your cookies look great!

My grandmother winters at an RV park in Arizona, and she always heads across the border for huge bottles of pure vanilla... they were so good to bake with. I miss them.

Okra Mary said...

I just had chai tea for the first time recently..i have been missing the most delicious tea on earth!

I'm totally stealing that chai kit for next year.

I'm busy still making gifts for folks - scarves were a big undertaking - one that I probably won't do again!

Thanks for still checking up on me and my fledgling (for the moment) blog. I'll be back soon!

xo...and have a good holiday!

Liz² said...

oh, your cookies look great! and chai kits are a seriously awesome idea - I got a stir-fry kit from someone already this year and think the whole concept is really cool.

kathyflake said...

Okay, only an art major would notice they're monochromatic. Not a problem with me! From here they just look delicious!

vegetalion said...

who cares that they're beige - they look AMAZING!

Ashasarala said...

A chai set sounds so creative and cute!

My favourite cookie is lemon poppy seed, but they all look so wonderful.

Oh, and Frontier is the shizzle.

jd said...

Sorry, but I have absolutely no idea what your post says. I was WAY too distracted by how DELICIOUS all of those amazing pictures look!!

Is it okay that I want to lick my computer screen right now? LOL!

I hope you're having a great holiday season! :)

vko said...

That's so cool that you had a blogger meetup with TB & got some yummy cookies to boot. I absolutely adore your chai tea gift set- that photo mosaic is beautiful!