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from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo

Coconut Breakfast Cakes
2 c whole flax seeds, or 3 c flax seed meal
2 tbsp liquid coconut oil
1/2 c agave or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c water

Put flax meal, coconut oil, agave, salt, and water in a large bowl and mix well. Form four balls and flatten into a “pancake” shape, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

To serve, top with Cashew Coconut Pudding (recipe follows) and fresh fruit.

Batter will keep for four to five days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

Cashew Coconut Pudding
2 c cashews
1 1/2 c water
1/4 c pitted dates
1/2 shredded dried coconut or fresh coconut

Blend the cashews and water until smooth. Add the dates and coconut. Blend until smooth.

Will keep for three to four days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

We recently had some friends visit who are pretty into raw food, so I was more than happy to bust out this cookbook in order to whip up a breakfast treat. I chose these two recipes because not only did I have all of the ingredients on hand, but Cleo has been totes gaga over cashews lately. And pancakes. She doesn’t seem to mind the other ingredients either.
We ended up making these the night before; I say we, because I put my guests to work forming the pancakes. They were huge! (the cakes, not the guests). We ended up making 5, and had plenty. So much actually, that none of us were able to finish our servings. Except for my husband, who has a hollow leg- he ate the biggest pancake, and probably the most pudding, before we even got up. He did have an early morning that he needed fuel for. Not that I’m complaining… The recipe for the pudding made enough for me to bring a bunch to share with my co-workers, several of whom are interested in raw food. I think they were pleasantly surprised (here’s the recipe, as promised, RF!)
I mostly followed the recipe… I might have added just a pinch extra salt (and it might have been divine) to the pancakes, and we chose to go with the maple syrup. Be sure that you measure out the coconut oil after you melt it (if it isn’t already melted in your cupboard…); the measurements are different when solid and liquid. And if your ingredients are cold, like mine were, the oil will solidify again. Mine did, since I keep my flax meal and seeds in the fridge, as well as the maple syrup. I just popped it in the warm oven for a few minutes to warm it up enough to melt it. You don’t want to cook it though! That wouldn’t be fitting of a raw food adventure at all.
This was a breakfast that I was really surprised by. I kind of thought I’d be hungry when I got to work, but I actually stayed full for most of the day. It was actually a little creepy how unhungry I was.

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1/2 c soy cream (I used Silk plain coffee creamer)
3/4 c rice or soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
3 tbsp finely grated (blood) orange zest
Orange Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a measuring cup, combine the soy cream, rice milk, and vinegar, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the rice milk mixture, oil, and orange zest; mix until just combined; the dough should be clumpy and not sticky. Even if there is still a light dusting of flour it’s okay.

Divide the dough in two. Knead one portion a few times, then form into a 6-inch disk. Cut the disk into six slices, pizza-style, and place each slice on the prepared cookie sheet. Do the same with the remaining dough. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly browned on the bottom and firm on top. Transfer to a cooling rack.

When cool (if they are still only slightly warm that is okay) transfer to parchment paper. Pour about 2 tablespoons Orange Glaze over the scones; let the tops set before eating. If you simply can’t wait, prepare to have sticky fingers. Makes 1 dozen scones.

Orange Glaze
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp nonhydrogenated margarine, melted
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange zest

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl; add all the other ingredients and mix until smooth.

Biscuit, meet cake. These are SO GOOD! Instead of using regular oranges, I used blood oranges, hoping to get a bit of color. I am so pleased with the delicate pinky hue that the glaze has. This is not a dry scone. Oh, no. It’s light, with just a little bit of chew (ok, so I might have added an extra 1/2 cup flour. The dough was really sticky when I went to form those disks!), and they are sooooo good. The orange flavor isn’t over powering, and they aren’t too sweet. Perfect with a cup of coffee and a little chit chat. Even after the glaze is set, they’re still likely to give you a sticky finger. So if you can’t handle a sticky finger, let me have your scone.

from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c oat flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
a handful of shelled pumpkin seeds for garnish (I opted for chunky sea salt instead)

First, reduce the pumpkin. Place it in a saucepan over medium heat for about 45 minutes. Keep the heat low enough that it doesn’t boil, but it should appear to be steaming. Stir often. After about 30 minutes, spoon the pumpkin into a liquid measuring cup to check on how much it has reduced. It should be down to around 2/3 cup at this point. Return the pumpkin to pot and cook until it has reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the cooled pumpkin and vanilla.

Sift in all remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Spoon onto cookie sheets in rounded tablespoons of dough, flattening the tops with your hand. Arrange a few pumpkin seeds in the centers, if you like (or just give them a sprinkle of big salt chunks, if you prefer, like I did. NOM!).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Pumpkin is something that my pantry is never without. So when I decided to make cookies on a whim one morning, these were an obvious choice. And the fact that I had to spend some time reducing the pumpkin meant that there would be no cookie dough for my mid-morning snack. I don’t know if I’d quite sell my soul for this cookie though. Maybe the intro for the recipe just built up my hopes so high that they were impossible to fulfill, but there just wasn’t enough pumpkin to them. I was hoping for something a bit more autumnal, really… and I think throwing some molasses in there somewhere might have given me what I was looking for. As far as cookies go, yes, they’re really good, especially with the delicate salting I gave them to bring out the sweet. They texture- firm, and not crumbly at all, is what really made this cookie win for me. I might have enjoyed just a bit more chew (hello, molasses?). But really, tasty little bites of yumminess, these were. About the reducing business- it actually took more like an hour for me to get to the desired half cup. But, perhaps I was being a bit conservative with the heat on the stove, as I didn’t want to come back from chasing my toddler around to find scorched pumpkin. The rest of the can of pumpkin made for a delish snack for the two of us, sprinkled with cinnamon. Another win for VCIYCJ!

from Gluten-Free Goddess

You’ll find the recipe here!

And with this recipe, we wrap up my Holiday 2010 Baking Marathon. I didn’t make a single savory item- not from scratch anyway. It was all about sugar and flour and fruit this year for Wootie. After making this pumpkin cake (like 6 times) from The Gluten-Free Goddess, I thought I would try out another of her recipes for Christmas dinner with my family. You might recall that my sister has trouble with gluten and soy, so again I turned to the source of what has become one of my favorites. This cake was really good, but it was almost too reminiscent of the pumpkin bundt- I think due to the buckwheat flour. Still a really tasty, moist and satisfying cake! Spicy and weighty, with little fruity chunks of heaven. I’ve never used cranberries in the kitchen, so there’s another item to cross off my list of things to try. I have some leftover, so we’ll see what else I can come up with. Any suggestions?
One of my favorite things about this cake is how pretty it is. The colors are so festive, and the way that sugar glistens on top is quite fetching, if I do say so myself. Topped with some Coconut Bliss, and things became REALLY FETCHING. It was a really nice way to wind down our busy Christmas day.

from ExtraVeganZa by Laura Matthias

4 medium pears, ripe
1 1/2 c vanilla soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c maple syrup
2 1/2 tbsp whole or sifted spelt flour (I used all-purpose; she says any other flour works well)
2 tsp arrowroot powder
1/8 tsp cardamom, ground

Peel, core, and slice the pears into thin, bite-size pieces. Place them in a medium saucepan and saute on medium heat, stirring the pears so that they do not stick to the pan. Be sure to use ripe pears, as they will help provide enough juice to keep the pears from sticking. Add the ground cardamom and continue to stir.

In a separate bowl, place the remaining ingredients and whisk them together thoroughly. Pour this mixture into the saucepan with the pears and whisk together. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue whisking for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture evenly into 4 small dessert serving bowls. Chill the pudding for a couple of hours until set. Serves 4.

For Christmas morning, we were invited to my husband’s family’s farm for a potluck. They had decided on a theme of Turkish Breakfast- did you know that Saint Nicolas was from Turkey? It was really nice having a theme when trying to pick out food to share. It ended up being a really great brunch: the hostess and her daughter made bagels (the highlight for me- they were SO GOOD and chewy!). My mother-in-law made some delish potatoes fried in olive oil, and my sister-in-law made lentil soup, which was so good it made me mourn the fact that lentils and I don’t get along. There were some egg dishes as well, though I didn’t pay much attention to those… and we had this pudding after we cleared the dishes from the main course. There were also cookies served along with it, but they weren’t vegan.
I chose this pudding because of the cardamom. And because I love pears. Who doesn’t? Cardamom is a key flavor in the Turkish food and drink. The simple ingredient list, as well as the potential for transportation, were what sold me on this recipe (I made two double batches, and just chilled them right in the pots I cooked them in that we transported in the cooler). Aside from peeling and cutting the pears, this pudding was really easy to make; just a bit time consuming (we had 16 pears to prepare! Thank goodness Mike was a willing helper with that. Plus he got me a sweet new knife for Christmas, so that made it go faster too. xo!). Once those pears were in the pot, things went pretty quickly, and it began to look like pudding within a few moments of adding the whisked ingredients into the soft cooking pears. We ended up having a LOT of leftovers, so when a little vegan-pizza-and-cocktail party descended upon our house the night after Christmas, I was prepared with plenty of dessert for all.
The flavor of it is pretty intense with the vanilla, but I’m not sure it was the best vanilla flavor. I might try plain soy milk next time, and use some vanilla bean scrapings for a more genuine flavor. The texture of the pudding is really good. Which is weird to say about pudding- but it’s not uniform! There’s the pudding, and then there are the pear chunks. I think adding some granola in there would be over the top yummy for brekkie. Oh, and baby loved it. It was just the fuel she needed for her first horse ride!

Hi there. Oh! You two haven’t met? This here is my favorite cookie in the entire world:

Candy Cane Cookies

adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, First Edition

1/2 c Earth Balance vegan margarine, at room temperature
1/2 c shortening
1 c confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg substitute, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6-8 drops red food color, optional (I didn’t use a natural food dye here, but by all means, go for it if you’d rather!)
1/2 c crushed peppermint candy

Heat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet. Mix thoroughly margarine, shortening, confectioner’s sugar, egg substitute, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Blend in food color, then crushed peppermint candy.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, then flatten into discs. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. They don’t spread much, if at all. Bake about 9 minutes, or until set and very light brown (check the underside of one). Once the cookies have cooled on the sheet for a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

One of my favorite food memories is associated with this cookie. My mom made them for Christmas when I was in Kindergarten, and she packed one in my lunch. I don’t think I’d had them before because I remember falling in love with a cookie for the first time during a sunny recess in that California schoolyard. I was lost in the almondy goodness, the density that is almost like shortbread, with that hint of salt taking the edge off the sweet. I was a changed person.
Originally this cookie is supposed to be shaped like a candy cane- with only half of the dough getting the red food dye- then you twist two 4-inch ropes together, and curve them to shape them like canes. However 1) I lack the patience for this, 2) My candy canes would continue to grow larger as I made them, 3) They would always be burned on the ends or raw in the middle- and in the case of the larger ones in the end of the batch- a dreadful combo of raw AND burned. I had to adjust. Plus, spending that much time working with dough meant more opportunity for me to consume said dough. As heavenly as the dough is… it’s not meant to be.
This is one of those cookies that people seem to either really love, or they’ll simply tolerate. I always make a double batch in case I find myself surrounded by a group of people that fall into the former category. Plus, they’re a nice cookie to have on a platter at a party- they offer some contrast if you have a lot of darker cookies and fruitcake bars, like I did this year. They refuse to go unnoticed!  I also tried a new (to me) recipe from this book:

Peppernuts

1/2 c shortening
3/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1/2 c molasses
1/2 tsp anise extract
1 tbsp hot water
3 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper

Heat oven to 350F. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar, egg replacer, molasses, anise extract, and water. Blend in remaining ingredients. Knead dough until of right consistency for molding.

Using a melon baller, scoop dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom. Store in airtight container.

These were so-so. I had hoped for something spicier! They were also a little dense and dry, but the recipe suggested storing them with a slice of apple for softer cookies. That’s something I should have tried, but the only apple I had was one that I wouldn’t be slicing until I made my apple cake for Christmas dinner- and that wasn’t happening for a few more days! Still, these are a nice cookie when you’re looking for one that isn’t as sweet. I will make these again, mostly because I’m curious about what they would be like with more anise extract (the original recipe calls for 3 drops of anise oil, not available in my store- I don’t know how it would compare to the extract so I used a modest amount), and I’d use more white pepper. I’d also make the cookies a bit bigger- in hopes of finding a softer center! The cookies were good, they all disappeared, and baby girl loved them. I just want them to be divine.
Also on my cookie platter this year: Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, and Fruitcake Bars, both from this, my favorite cookie book. I also made a whopping SIX batches of these Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts from Shutterbean to give along with my cookies to neighbors and as stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. Spicy and sweet and very well received.

from Basil & Wine

Here is the recipe!

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this, but I’m so glad that I did! She’s got a lot of really great recipes, and I was really intrigued by this one. And just recently, I saw that our local vegan cupcakery has a similar treat in their case! With chocolate frosting! So really, it’s a fabulous idea. I made a few without chocolate chips for my daughter, and froze them. She loved them! The rest of them tasted mostly of chocolate, with a hint of avocado and banana, but really, they great thing about them is the texture. Dense and chewy and heavy (they taste like they’re a little underdone even!). Totally my style, and apparently my daughter’s as well. Sadly, the recipe didn’t quite make a dozen (it claims to make 10-12). Ten smaller muffins is what I got out of it, but so worth it! And really, for a treat they’re pretty healthy, and beyond easy to make. These will definitely be a staple in our house for snacks for baby, without the chocolate chips. But maybe with chocolate sauce as an option for us older folks.

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1 c nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature
1 1/4 c sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together the margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add the molasses and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls spaced a little over 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until ever so slightly browned. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

This here is the dough that you would stir into your soy ice cream to make the perfect cookie dough ice cream, veganized (wait, that sounds familiar. I might have said that about another cookie dough… at least I’m conisistent!). It’s really good. I ate way too much of it. And still ended up with 4 dozen cookies, which leads me to believe that our dear author meant that we should drop the cookies by tablespoonfuls. The cookies were pretty small, and didn’t need that 2 inches between them on the cookie sheets. They were a really nice few bite- size, with two cookies being a perfect serving. I did end up baking them for almost 12 minutes though, so maybe teaspoonfuls is what she meant indeed. I don’t know. I’m not complaining! Just keep an eye on them as you get to the end of your baking time! Also, the dough seemed a bit crumblier than I’m used to, but using my melon baller to shape the cookies worked like a charm.
I fed these to my non-vegan aunt and uncle, and mom and dad when they visited, and they seemed pleased with them- so much that a pretty significant number had disappeared by the time they left. I think they tasted even better the day after I made them, though nothing beats a chocolate chip still melty from the oven. Another win for Isa!

from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Graham Cracker Crust:
12 graham crackers, or 1 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c canola oil
1 tbsp soy milk

Chocolate Pie Filling:
1 pound silken tofu (not the vacuum-packed kind), drained
1/4 c hazelnut liqueur (I used coffee liqueur, but the recipe says rice or soy milk work too)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
12 oz bittersweet vegan baking chocolate, melted

Maple Candied Pecans:
1 c pecans
2 tsp canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Peanut Butter Caramel:
1/3 c peanut butter, smooth or chunky, at room temperature
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp brown rice syrup

Chocolate Drizzle:
4 oz bittersweet vegan chocolate, chopped, or 1/4 c vegan chocolate chips
1/4 c soy or rice milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 10-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

Prepare the crust: Process the grahams into fine crumbs. Place them in a bowl and drizzle the oil on them. Use your fingertips or a fork to mix in the oil until all crumbs are moistened; sprinkle in the soy milk and mix again. Pour the crumbs into the pie plate and firmly press them to the bottom and sides of the plate. Set aside.

Prepare the filling: First, melt your chocolate. Crumble the tofu into a blender or food processor. Add the liqueur, vanilla, and arrowroot to the tofu and blend until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides to make sure you get everything. Add the melted chocolate and blend again until completely mixed. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 40 minutes. The center may still be jiggly but that’s fine.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack on the countertop for10 minutes, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. The top of the pie should be firm to the touch.

Meanwhile , prepare your candied pecans: cover a large plate with baking parchment. Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir them very frequently for 3 minutes, until they start to brown. Stir constantly for 2 more minutes, until they are a few shades darker and relatively uniformly toasted. (If a few don’t look toasted, don’t worry about it. That’s better than having them burn.)

Add the oil and salt, and stir for another minute. Add the maple syrup, stirring constantly for about a minute.  The maple syrup should get bubbly and dry. Use a spatula to transfer the pecans to the plate and spread them out as much as you can; it’s best if they aren’t touching. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Once the pie has been chilling for at least 3 hours, prepare the peanut butter caramel and chocolate drizzle. Have your pie out and ready to be assembled.

To prepare the peanut butter caramel: Stir all the ingredients together in a small saucepan. Gently heat everything over low heat, stirring constantly with a fork, just until smooth and heated through. It should fall from your fork in ribbons. If it seems stiff, turn off the heat immediately and add a little extra brown rice syrup, until it’s fluid again. (This happens because different peanut butters have different amounts of moisture.)

Pour the peanut butter over the center of the pie, leaving an inch or two bare at the edges because it spreads. Get your pecans and place them on top of the caramel, pressing them in firmly. You may have to break the pecans apart from one another if they cooled touching.

Prepare the chocolate drizzle: In a small saucepan, heat the soy milk to boiling, then add the chocolate and turn down the heat. Use a fork to stir until completely blended. Turn off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You can drizzle the chocolate over the pie with a spoon, but we like to put it in a pastry bag fitted with a wide writing tip and drizzle it that way, in stripes. Chill the pie for at least 10 minutes before serving, so that the chocolate firms up a bit. Serves 8.

Where do I start?!? I made this pie for my husband’s birthday. He loves pecans. He loves a gooey dessert as much as any sane person does, and chocolate isn’t too far down on his list of likes either. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a special occasion; you know how I like a simple recipe, so this 5-part pie was a true expression of my love. I also asked him what he wanted for dinner on his birthday, and after a quick perusal of my blog, he chose this chili. Which was a huge relief, since it’s so easy and could be prepared ahead of time, leaving me the day to work on the pie and finish a painting for his gift.
The pie was INSANE. Insanely rich, insanely good. That peanut butter caramel is TO DIE FOR, and those maple candied pecans aren’t too bad either. Both of those I’d make again without making the rest of the pie- they’d be great toppings for ice cream or a simple cake. The chocolate filling is so dense and luscious. The only silken tofu available at the market was the vacuum packed kind, and it turned out really well; so I don’t know what the big deal is. Do you? The liqueur added a richness that I don’t think I was quite ready for. So did that chocolate drizzle! Maybe I’m just a lightweight, but I almost could not handle this pie. What I’d change if I were to make it again- I think I’d double the crust recipe. I had a hard time getting ample crust coverage on the pie plate. I’d make extra PB caramel. I would like more of it on the pie, and more to lick out of the saucepan. I’d also omit that chocolate drizzle. I don’t know if Mike would be very happy about that, but I feel that the caramel and pecans should be the star here, not the chocolate. But I guess it wouldn’t be so over the top with only four parts, right? Happy birthday Mike! I love you! xoxoxoxoxo

A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean

Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows

Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels.  In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.  Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).  Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:

I hope that you had a happy Halloween!