Christmas baking adventures

Just about every year I say I’ll make treats to give as gifts.  But every year, being summer in Australia, it’s often way too hot to turn the oven on.

But Melbourne has been true to form and given us some nice cold wintery/autumny weather.  In summer!  Melbourne is such a delight that way. I love Melbourne.  These cool changes in the weather make summer bearable for me.  I really, really dislike hot weather.  I was sweating it out in shorts last week.  Three days ago it was so cold and rainy that I had to break my winter coat out of storage and we put the room heaters on.

I recently purchased the super lovely ‘Vegan Food Gifts’ by Joni Marie Newman. Beautiful photography coupled with great gift ideas and recipes.  The book contains instructions on how to make little boxes and decorations, as well as labels, hang tags and cards you can copy. This is great for talentless hacks like me when it comes to crafts and using one’s hands to make pretty things. I have to go through it again and narrow down the stuff I’ll be making, then I will get Arthur and DeeW to help make the boxes and decorationy bits.

Aaaanyway, let’s talk food.  This year I’ll be making the Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies from  Woman In Real Life.  Joann has a great blog and these cookies, which I made twice, are delicious.  I didn’t have chocolate chunks the first time so I used small white chocolate chips.  I also bought far more cranberries than I’ll probably ever use so I threw in some of those as well, along with some chopped pumpkin seeds for the whole green-and-red Christmas vibe.  They turned out great.  The second time (photo below), I think I chopped things too finely in the food processor (I was being lazy) so there aren’t that many nice chunks and I used wholemeal spelt and the cookies turned out puffier-yummy, whereas the first batch (with stuff chopped by hand) were crunchy-flat yumness:


Also on the plate there are the Norah’s Lemon Lemon Cookies from ‘Isa Does It’ by Isa Chandra M.  These are great too, though a little on the sweet side for me.  I decided not to make the icing, though when I give them out I’ll dust over some icing (confectioner’s) sugar.

Now, I made both these cookies and put them in the freezer to keep until Christmas, where I can then wrap them up when I’m about to go visiting.  I tried one of each from the freezer and they were fine.  So fine, that I had a few more of each.  I really don’t think these will last.  But that’s okay, I want to make them again and see if I can shape them properly.  I’m a bit of a glutton perfectionist like that!

TVP Chorizo, Refried Beans and Chickpeas of Simplicity

So Arthur is now keen on trying vegan foods I make which is great.  I talked about having ‘taco Tuesday’ and so here we are.  Well, a day later ‘cos it’s Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to make a chorizo flavoured dish for a while but not a seitan sausage.  ‘Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites’ has a TVP Chorizo that looked perfect.  It’s so easy to make, although I did add a few drops of liquid smoke.  You just put everything in a bowl, cover and let the TVP reconstitute. I then browned it all in a frying pan because I like crispyness.

Next I wanted a refried beans recipe so I headed straight for Terry Hope Romero’s ‘Viva Vegan!’ and her recipe for  Home-Style Refried Beans.  This is something I rarely make as nobody in the fam is keen on beans apart from me.  Again, this was another simple straightforward recipe.  To me, refried beans are just refried beans and I’ve never gone “oh my gosh these are amazingly good!” but that could be because I always use kidney beans and with kidney beans, I get over them really quick.  This recipe was nice though.

My next recipe was intended for Arthur.  He’s never eaten chickpeas, apart from roasted.  For my simplicity chickpeas, I put a can of cooked chickpeas in the frying pan, added some tomato paste then some water mixed with vegan chicken style stock powder (the Massel one) and nooch and simmered it like a pasta sauce.

So those were my three taco fillings, as well as some butter lettuce, tomato and Tofutti cheese cut up in to ‘shreds’.  I had hard shell tacos and soft tacos:


I really like the TVP chorizo and I think the addition of liquid smoke was just right.  I can see myself making this again as I love the flavours.  I used the leftovers in some puff pastry:


Now for Arthur’s review.  I gave him a little taste of the chickpeas, refried beans and TVP chorizo.

Arthur: *massive show of gagging, clutching throat, choking, falling everywhere, getting back up, falling everywhere*

 You know that scene in the original Get Smart where Maxwell gets an acting gig and does the drawn out death scene?  Where he’s falling all over the place?  That’s my boy right there.

Husband was out for dinner but tried some leftover TVP Chorizo and said it was okay which means I should be able to make it again and have him like it more next time. DeeW only had a bit of plain soft taco and didn’t like it.

Okay, so Taco Tuesday was a bit of a flop… here’s to hoping that Thai Tuesday will be a hit!