Indoor Plant: Aloe Vera Succulent

 We recently adopted a luscious aloe vera plant into our home in the middle of this California Winter that feels like Spring some days and Summer others. 

The lovely deep muted blue green toned stems reach upward with pink-red brushed tips showing new growth. Just last week, he got his very own taupe ceramic residence, filled with soil, sand, and tiny pebbles, to allow him to drink what he needs and let the rest drain freely. 

I was told they can be quite simple to care for, they require little water, a bit of indirect sunlight, and a few smiles a day.
So far, so good.

I use aloe vera on my skin every day, I have even drank aloe vera water [or juice?] before, but as I picked up our new addition ready to head home, the man told me we could eat it.
"I suppose," I said, "but it's just so lovely."
I have found there are, in fact, recipes out there that use aloe...
food, drink, skincare, healthcare...
However, I have yet to snip a branch for use, even the ones that are drying out and falling off to make room for the new growth, I just can't bring myself to. 
Maybe soon, though, we will see.

In the meantime, I'll admire the colors and dramatic contrast as the sunlight floods onto one side of it through a window to the left, and ponder which member of the plantae kingdom will be next added to our little growing family...

The year is already flying by! It seems, to me, we just celebrated ringing in the New Year, and I am still consciously reminding myself to write 2014 on dates, is that just me? 
I do hope the New Year has treated you well, so far, and wish you all the happiness in the coming month.
Happy February!

Gluten Free Vegan Mini Lemon Pies

 I was so excited to bring home a basket of fresh, plump lemons from my family's old lemon tree. A lemon tree has been in the backyard at least 15 years, and produced the deliciously juicy citrus fruit for the first time this year.

  Totally worth the wait!

 As I picked the darling yellow fruit from the tree, my mind raced spastically, flitting with all the possible recipes and delicious creations these beauties could be used to make...

 Lemon bars
 Lemon ice cream
 Lemon cookies 
 Lemon pie
 Lemon cake
 Lemon glazed scones 


 Not to mention I love adding fresh lemon to a warm mug of tea or starting my day with hot lemon water, it puts a zing in your step!

 The camera loved them!

 Anyhow, back to that huge decision I was faced aunt and my mom both freeze fresh lemon juice for later use, and my mom will include the zest as well. Simply juice and zest the lemons when fresh and plump, pour into ice cup trays, freeze, and once frozen solid, you can transfer to a resealable container or zip-top bag to store in freezer until you make a recipe that calls for fresh lemon juice!
 I was simply too excited to put off their use. I decided on sugar cookie lemon tarts.

 These darling little pies have a coconuty crust with a hint of caramel, filled with a deliciously refreshing lemon curd filling.

Gluten Free Vegan Mini Sugar Cookie Lemon Tart Pies

sugar cookies

-1/2 cup coconut sugar
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
-1/2 cup vegan buttery spread
-1 vegan egg
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
-1/2 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 cup white rice flour
-1/2 cup tapioca starch
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

lemon curd filling

adapted from this recipe by vegansaurus
-1 cup fresh lemon juice
-1/2 cup water
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup arrowroot powder
-1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
-zest of 2-3 lemons
-1/3 cup plant based full fat milk or creamer
-2 Tablespoons vegan buttery spread

1. Begin preparing sugar cookies: Preheat oven to 350F and spray or oil muffin tin.

2. Cream buttery spread, coconut oil and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, combine. Gradually add flours, baking soda and cream of tartar. Mix until throughly combined, but not overmixed.
3. Scoop by Tablespoonful into prepared muffin tin, form into bottom and up sides to create a cup or small pie crust. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove from oven and allow to sit at least 15 minutes before removing carefully from tin.
4. Prepare lemon curd filling: Combine lemon juice, water, sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt in food processor (you can omit this step by thoroughly mixing until smooth and no lumps remain). 
5. Pour into medium saucepan, add lemon zest and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking until it comes to a full boil (about 10-15 minutes), allow to boil, undisturbed, for one minute. It should appear clearer and noticeably thicker, remove from heat.
6. After you have removed the pan from heat, add milk or creamer and vegan buttery spread. Whisk until everything is thoroughly combined. Allow it to thicken and cool in saucepan then pour by 1-2 Tablespoonful into the mini sugar cookie pie crust cups.
The lemon curd filling thickens as it cools, so refrigerating will help it solidify if it does not appear to be doing so at room temperature.


optional substitutions:
-egg: see list of egg substitutes here, most are in your cupboard!
-coconut sugar: organic white sugar
-coconut oil: vegan buttery spread
-vegan buttery spread: coconut oil
-alternative gluten free flour combinations would work (sorghum, potato, almond, cashew, or any of your favorites! I would avoid any with a strong flavor, like garbanzo bean)

Mangia! Mangia!

Vanilla Bean Peanut Butter Chunk Chocolate Crunch Vegan Ice Cream

This past weekend we joined my sister and the Mr.'s brother on a trip to Disneyland. We met up with a few old friends who brought their irresistible 15 month old for his first trip to the Magic Kingdom-I kid you not, that little guy is the cutest bouncy bundle of baby yet. We all spent a day in the parks and the following day, my sister and I participated in a 10k together. 
 I ran my first half marathon in October of 2011, joined by my two sisters, my brother-in-law, and my dad. 
 It was such a blast that a few weeks later, I ran my second half marathon by myself just a couple blocks away from where I was attending college at the time. 
 My third was with my mom, dad, two sisters, four family friends, two aunts, one great uncle, a cousin, and a couple of my sister's good friends, it was the most outrageous, and most Italian, half marathon I have run to much family and so much hilarity. 
 Near the end of last year, my older sister and I joined up again for what would be my fourth half marathon, there was a bit of dew in the air, which equated to a considerable amount of frizz on my curly-haired head. Thankfully the Mr. thoroughly documented our dash for the finish line so I could later confirm the frizz I had suspected I was sporting the entire run. Regardless, it was a fantastic run with spectacular views!

 Anyhow, this 10k was, in fact our first 10k event, however, when we signed up and the registration asked if it was so, we decided to say it was not, due to what I'd like to consider our somewhat seasoned running event status. We can be quite the rebellious ones. 
 Considering we woke up around 4AM after spending a whole day on our feet walking many miles and riding many rides, I'd say we succeeded in not only holding our heads up, but holding ourselves with an air of joy and ardentness. 

 Whether it was the magic of Disneyland or the motivation of a very large burrito waiting for us later in the day, we did it, and I came right home and made this vanilla bean peanut butter chocolate crunch ice cream.

Vanilla Bean Peanut Butter Chunk Chocolate Crunch Vegan Ice Cream

makes 6-8 servings

ice cream:

-2 (13.6 ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk (about 3 1/3 cups)
-1/2 cup coconut sugar
-1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

chocolate crunch:
-3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 teaspoon coconut oil

peanut butter chunks:
-1/3 cup peanut butter
-1/4 cup peanuts
-1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup

1. Whisk together coconut milk, sugar, scraped vanilla beans, and vanilla extract in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. 

2. Pour into a heat-safe bowl and refrigerate until completely chilled, whisking every so often to chill quicker.
3. Place peanuts in food processor, process until ground fine. Add peanut butter and maple syrup and process until thoroughly combined. Freeze 5-10 minutes to firm up then flatten between to pieces of parchment paper using a rolling pin. Freeze for another hour.
4. Heat chocolate and coconut oil in a double broiler (or a heat-safe glass bowl over a small saucepan filled with an inch of water) over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and let cool on counter.
5. Pour the chilled ice cream mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. When your ice cream starts to freeze and collect on the mixer, but is still moving smoothly, stream the melted and cooled chocolate into the ice cream.
6. Remove peanut butter from freezer. Layer ice cream and peanut butter into an airtight container, packing down one layer at a time as you go. To store in freezer, place plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream and seal with a lid.

recipe adapted from this delicious recipe from edible perspective
a few substituitions...
-2 cans full fat coconut milk = 1 can coconut cream + 1 can light coconut milk
-2 cans full fat coconut milk = 1 can coconut cream + 1 1/2 cups any plant-based milk 
-coconut sugar: organic white sugar
-peanut butter: any other nut butter or can be made nut-free by using a seed butter and omitting peanuts
-maple syrup: honey

Mangia! Mangia!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Puppy Treats

Over the years, I've strapped on my apron and pulled out my arsenal of baking supplies to make peanut butter dog treats as a birthday or Christmas gift to our darling family golden, Maggy, each time it seemed she fell more and more in love with me (or anyone kind enough to bless her with one of these little delights). 

She is the most loyal, devoted, loving mother goose of our family home, always taking count of which ducklings are in the house, when the rest of her ducklings would be coming home, and she gives each duckling a quick sniff as they come through the door to make sure all is good. 
She is always most content when everyone is home and gathered in the kitchen or family room. Mind you, there seems no way that this lovely soul could love our family any more than her big heart already does...that is, until these peanut butter puppy treats come out of the oven...


Gluten Free Peanut Butter Puppy Treats
makes about one cookie sheet full of puppy treat cutouts

-1 1/4 cups garbanzo bean/chickpea flour

-1/2 cup rolled oats
-1/4 cup peanut butter
-2/3 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick baking mat.

2. Wisk together flour and oats.
3. Add in peanut butter and hot water, thoroughly combine.
4. Roll dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4" thick. Using a dog bone cookie cutter, cut shapes and place on lined baking sheet. (I used a large dog bone cookie cutter as well as a small round 2" cookie or biscuit cutter.
6. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn off oven and leave cookies in as oven cools off, preferably overnight. The dryer the cookies, the longer they stay fresh.

Keep sealed at room temperature or store in the fridge or freezer if you believe they will last longer than a month...ours typically don't.

Mangia! Mangia!
(your furry friend, not you, goof ball)

Gluten Free Nut Free Vegan Graham Crackers

My lovely aunt and darling cousin eat [and bake] gluten free, and since I enjoy sharing and discussing recipes, I thought I'd accept the challenge they presented me with during our last visit together. 
Gluten free graham crackers. 

There are many brave trailblazers out there that have developed recipes for gluten free graham crackers, vegan graham crackers, nut free graham crackers, and good ol' fashioned original graham crackers. Some of those recipes called for ingredients I did not have, some had dairy or egg ingredients, some had wheat ingredients, all sounded and looked delectably tasty. 
After perusing many graham cracker recipes, I pulled out nearly half of my supply of baking ingredients and used a little here, a bit there, and a kiss from the graham cracker Gods before coming to a delightful dough with a quaint golden color, perfect baked crunch, and subtly sweet finish. Yum.
These tasty little crackers are gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan.

Gluten Free Nut Free Vegan Graham Crackers

makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2"-2" crackers

-3/4 cup old fashioned oats

-1/2 cup sorghum flour
-1/3 cup sweet white rice flour
-1/3 cup tapioca starch/flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
-1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons vegan buttery spread
-1/4 cup raw honey
-1 Tablespoon molasses

1. Preheat oven to 325F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick baking mat.

2. Place oats in food processor, process until fine. Add remaining flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, process until combined. 
3. Add vegan buttery spread, process until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add honey and molasses, process until dough comes together and forms a smooth ball.
4. Place dough in fridge for about 10 minutes, just enough time to clean up. If using a nonstick rolling pin, lay out a non stick baking mat for rolling dough, if not using a nonstick rolling pin, you can sandwich the dough between two pieces of parchment paper.
5. Remove half of dough ball from fridge. Sprinkle white rice flour over rolling surface and roll dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut into 1 1/2" squares (if using a non stick baking mat do not cut dough on mat, move to alternate surface before cutting) and place on lined baking sheet. Using a fork, poke each cracker a few times, and, if desired, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar prior to baking.
6. Roll out remaining dough and repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is ready to bake.
7. Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and almost hard, they will finish hardening up after being removed from oven.

Mangia! Mangia!

Lacy Florentine Crisp Cookies

With a luscious crunch, sweet bite, and airy crisp, these intricately lacy Florentine cookies are gluten-free and completely vegan. They are surely Heaven-sent. 

Heaven.....must be missin' an angel....missin' one angel, child, 'cause you're here with me right now

I was playing that song through my head as I danced around the kitchen baking these little beauties...feel free to do the same. 
You may have a tough time resisting. 
Just let it happen.


Lacy Florentine Crisp Cookies
makes about 1 1/2 dozen 6" cookies

-2/3 cup almond flour (or 5 ounces of almonds ground fine)

-3 Tablespoons gluten-free flour (I used white rice)
-1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
-3/4 cup sugar
-2 Tablespoons almond milk
-2 Tablespoons raw honey
-1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon vegan buttery spread
-1/2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

optional chocolate drizzle
-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
-1 1/2 Tablespoons vegan buttery spread

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick baking mat.
2. Combine flours, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
3. Bring milk, honey, and vegan buttery spread to a boil in saucepan over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and add flour mixture to pan, stirring to combine.
4. Let mixture cool for about 20 minutes or until it thickens up a bit.
5. Drop by Tablespoonful onto lined baking sheet about 4 inches apart to account for spreading. 
6. Bake in preheated oven 9-11 minutes, or until about an inch all around the edge has turned golden. Promptly remove from the oven and let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes before either rolling them or removing them from hot cookie sheet.

For rolling into cylinders:

1. Slowly peel up the edge of a cookie after it has sat on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes. 
2. Using a wooden spoon handle, slowly peel up cookie and wrap it around the handle.

For chocolate drizzle:
1. Slowly melt chocolate chips and vegan buttery spread in a double broiler over medium heat.
2. Once melted, keep over low heat while you dip, spread, or drizzle cookies.


adapted from this recipe from The Gluten Free Vegan
a few optional substitutions...
-almond flour: cashew flour, oat flour
-sugar: coconut sugar
-almond milk: any plant-based milk (coconut is delicious)
-honey: maple syrup

Mangia! Mangia!