house

Today, my sister and I were talking about how much we dislike New Year’s Eve. She more than I, but I find myself agreeing with her assessment of the last day of the year. We assign so much significance to attending the most spectacular soiree, picking the perfect outfit, and declaring how the next day will be the start of  “our year.” These efforts seem highly speculative and rooted in shallowness. 

I know, I know. Pessimist much?

Maybe the joyful anticipation Americans tie to New Year’s Eve isn’t such a bad thing. Milestones are good. They help us set benchmarks, track our progress and most importantly, force us to have goals, and no matter how unrealistic, it’s always nice to dream.

My hope for the coming year is that God will give me the strength to accept any challenges and receive any blessings coming my way. It’s what I prayed last year, and as usual the Lord proved faithful.  In 2013, I had major surgery, had my purse and cell phone stolen and tried to get a handle of the severe disappointment I felt toward some people close to me. A fall week was spent in the hospice watching my grandmother slowly drift from this life into the next.  But the blessings were there. My grandmother is no longer suffering, I SURVIVED major surgery, and I took some time to do a reassessment of the role certain folks play in my life.

And… I bought a house!!! I mean a whole house, with a nice kitchen and large pantry. I’m alive and kicking with plenty of energy, physical and creative, and I’m eager to whip up more satisfying delights, which I will chronicle here. So no matter what happens, 2014 will certainly be “my year.”

cronut

And just like that we were all craving cronuts and kohlrabi. Curious as to what else we devoured in 2013?

vegan eggnog cake

Growing up, eggnog was never a part of my family’s Christmas food traditions. I always thought the stuff was weird and dangerous because of all the raw eggs. The first time I had eggnog I must have been 18 or 19 and it was a pasteurized version from a carton. Completely safe, right? Not at all. My youthful suspicions proved to be true, as I discovered eggnog is dangerously addictive. All that sugar, nutmeg, and milk fat is a recipe for trouble.  

Now when the holidays roll around, I reach for So Delicious’ vegan coconut milk eggnog. It’s creamy and sweet, but a tad less rich, yet more filling. It’s great in french toast and pancake batter and even better in this vegan coffee cake, which will make a perfect addition to your Christmas brunch spread. 

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maple butternut squash bread

Leave it to me to complicate things. This butternut squash bread requires two additional steps normally not found in quick bread recipes. Instead of adding whole eggs to the wet ingredients, egg whites are whipped and then gently folded in with the rest of the batter. So is it still a quick bread? I think so and a darn good one, that happens to have no white sugar or cholesterol. Buttery maple syrup and creamy roasted butternut squash give the bread its sweetness, while the whipped egg whites bring structure and ensure a superb lightness. This bread is plenty good on its own, but feel free to add a smear of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. Perfection!  Continue reading→

roasted butternut squash

Now that we’ve sufficiently addressed my confounding attitude toward pumpkin, let’s move on to the winter squash for which I am certain of my fidelity. That would be the economical, practical, and most importantly flavorful,  butternut squash. Like pumpkin,  butternut squash is orange and in season during the cooler months, but as far as I’m concerned that’s where the  similarities end. Without seasoning, butternut squash can seem pretty uninspiring, but don’t be fooled.  It possesses a sweet, creamy richness that is only heightened by the addition of salt and sugar. Roasting butternut squash yields superb results as it allows the natural sugars in the fruit to caramelize. 

roasted butternut squash

Puréed roast butternut squash requires an additional step, but one that is worth the effort. You can swap this nourishing blend for pumpkin in quick breads, cakes and pies. Also, try adding the purée to savory pasta sauces. Or enjoy it as a sweet side dish with a little maple syrup, butter and salt.  Continue reading→

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