Creamy Spiced Eggnog

 I hope your Thanksgiving was a great one, gathering to express thanks for good company, to create good times, and to enjoy good food.

 This year we gathered to celebrate at my childhood home with close family, a couple of new friends, and more family toward the end of the day.
 Over the roasted delicata squash, mounds of stuffing, and decadent sweet potato soufflĂ©, we learned a great deal about my sister's new co-workers who recently moved to California. While my appetite for a great deal of delicious food was satisfied, the stories of their visits around the world grew my appetite and craving for travel.

 The day wore on and pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and caramel apple pie were served. We had a short visit from local family then enjoyed a little more coffee before the evening began winding down. 
 After the day of food prep in the kitchen, a feast enjoyed with good company and new friends, and shared stories over dessert, we slept better than ever.

  The following day, we began decorating my childhood home with holiday decor-a tradition that we carry on every year. Part of that tradition is to enjoy a cold glass of eggnog with a touch of rum or brandy while we decorate.

 This year I came across a delicious recipe for raw vegan eggnog from This Rawsome Vegan Life and had to make it for our traditional drink. It had the creamiest texture and carried notes of the warm fall spices cinnamon and nutmeg, and the soft, sweet flavor of vanilla.
 This recipe redefined the favorite holiday drink by being raw, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, and soy free. Containing only nuts, water, dates, vanilla, and spices, this raw vegan eggnog has no fillers, thickeners, artificial flavors, preservatives or other mysterious ingredients.
 Made with the simplest of ingredients, a creamy glass of this nog tasted delicious with my morning coffee as well.
 Best enjoyed by a warm fire, listening to holiday tunes, and surrounded by good company.

Creamy Spiced Eggnog
serves 4-6

-1 cup pecans
-1 cup large dates, pitted
-4-5 cups water
-1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Blend all ingredients together in high speed blender until smooth and creamy. Serve and enjoy.

store in refrigerator
adapted from this recipe "raw egg nog for the holidays" by This Rawsome Vegan Life
for a warm holiday drink, blend up with warm water
if too thin, add more pecans or dates and blend
if too thick, add more water and blend
change the spice quantities to taste
the softer and juicier the dates, the better
tastes delicious with coffee, also with cookies

Mangia! Mangia!

Bourbon Pumpkin Brownie Fudge

 Already, this autumn season has been a fantastic reminder of how much greater life is if you choose to stop and look around, take in each moment and live in the present, spend as much time as possible around those who's company you enjoy, and do what makes you most happy.

 We have had the privilege of getting to visit with old and new company, share in the joy of new life and the celebrating of another year gone by. Being close enough to good family and friends that spontaneous visits are possible with little planning, and being surrounded with company that only lifts us higher.

 In addition, as I mentioned in previous posts about hand letter writing with new penpals and being part of communities of talented and inspiring creatives, inspiration has been ever-present, especially with the holidays around the corner!

 That said, these fudgy brownies, or brownie fudge squares-or whatever you choose to call them once you try their irresistible texture-are full of rich chocolate flavor with undertones of toasty Bourbon, festive pumpkin, and notes of warm spices.

 A spirited dessert to offer up to family and friends as we gather to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season...

Bourbon Pumpkin Brownie Fudge
makes one 8x8" pan

-2 Tablespoons ground flax
-1/2 cup pumpkin puree
-1 can black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
-1/4 cup coconut oil
-1/2 cup coconut sugar
-1/3 cup cocoa or cacao powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
-3 Tablespoons Bourbon
-1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F an line 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine ground flax and pumpkin, set aside to thicken.
3. Process black beans, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and flax/pumpkin mixture in food processor. Process until completely smooth. 
4. Add cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, and Bourbon, process until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake in preheated oven 45-50 minutes or until set. They will be very doughy in the middle, you can place them in the refrigerator to firm up a bit or let them sit at room temperature to cool before cutting into them.

You may sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top once cool for garnish and for additional spice.
They taste marvelous topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
optional substitutions...
-pumpkin puree: butternut squash puree, applesauce
-coconut oil: coconut butter
-coconut sugar: white or brown sugar
-Bourbon: other whiskey or substitute milk of choice (you can use part Bourbon and part milk if you want a more mild Bourbon flavor)
For a basic chocolate black bean brownie: Black Bean Brownies

Mangia! Mangia!

Chocolate Covered Mint & Chocolate Cookies

  I recently connected with a community of inspiring individuals and was invited to share on Something Lovely, a website crafted by Holly Wooten to chronicle her pursuit of and inspiration from all that's lovely in life. Her happiness and positive vignette of life's beauty is contagious. Her aspiration of finding all that's lovely in everyday life is one we could all stand to adopt into our day to day existence.

  In the words I shared on Holly's blog, I discussed what handwritten letters mean to me. There is something about opening your mailbox to find a letter-be it an envelope addressed to you, a postcard, or package, full of thoughtful words in unique penmanship.

  I recently received a heartfelt letter handwritten by the woman behind West Heritage on handmade paper crafted of kozo by the talented couple behind Share Studios in Maine.  I was swept off my feet. Codi’s words and Stephanie’s handcraftsmanship are ethereal. These women are thoughtful, genuine, and inspiring, and they have pulled me deeper into the art and pastime of letter-writing.

  In addition to these creative spirits, I have also had the pleasure of getting to know a handful of unique and talented women that the lovely author of this blog introduced me to: Holly - the brilliant mastermind of Something Lovely, from the state that produces our beloved Bourbon, Briana - pursuing her photography business Life Tales in Sweden, Jessica - a Hawai’i blogger with a passion for beauty and food, and Austrailia-based Bethany Jae and her brainchild The Free Woman; a revolution of the feminine heart.

  Though I have only briefly gotten to know this band of creatives, I am filled with inspiration from their talents and positive energy and encouragement.
  To pass on this contagious inspiration, I am sharing a recipe that very closely resembles-in texture and flavor-the infamous thin mint cookie.
  These tasty gems are made of simple ingredients, they are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, and full of delectable texture and fresh minty chocolatiness.

Chocolate Covered Mint & Chocolate Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

chocolate cookies 
-1/4 cup melted coconut oil
-1/4 cup maple syrup
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon peppermint extract
-1/2 cup powdered cocoa or cacao
-1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
-1/4 cup arrowroot starch

chocolate coating
-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
-2 Tablespoons coconut oil
-1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Beat coconut oil and syrup at low speed until combined. Add salt, extracts, and cocoa, beat until consistency of frosting. Add flour and starch, beat to combine.
2. Roll into a log about 2" in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze 15-20 minutes. 
3. Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick liner.
4. Remove cookie dough from freezer and cut into 1/4" thick slices. Place evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven 12 minutes.
5. Heat chocolate chips, coconut oil, and peppermint extract in double-boiler (you can use a heat-proof bowl that fits snugly over on top of the pot) over simmering water until just melted. Remove from heat.
6. One at a time, drop the cookies into the melted chocolate. With a fork, spoon out each cookie and shake off the excess chocolate. Place the dipped cookie back on the baking sheet and repeat for the rest of the batch. Place in freezer for twenty minutes or so until firmed up, remove and enjoy.

Store in refrigerator for up to a week, for longer, store in freezer.

Mangia! Mangia!