Raw mint brownie cake

It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2011. Can you believe it? I know most of you are now reflecting on the year that was, thinking about all your memorable moments and making lists of how to live better in 2012.

While I typically don’t make new year resolutions, I do try to take some time out during the last week of the year to brainstorm things I’m interested in exploring at some point in the next 365 days. Each year I come up with something new. That something doesn’t involve dieting, exercising or resolving to quit a bad habit. Quite simply, it involves something that makes me happy. In 2012, is there something you can do that makes you happy?

Of course, writing this blog will remain a highlight. I feel incredibly grateful that it has connected me with so many other inspiring bloggers, loyal readers and compassionate activists. I have all of you to thank for filling my life with love, support and inspiration.

Since the holiday season isn’t over quite yet, I have one last gift to share with you. This raw mint brownie cake is a spin-off of one of the more popular recipes on ADC—my raw coconut brownies. It is also one of a few dessert options I brought for Christmas Day dinner at my mom’s place, but it might just be the perfect way to top off the year this weekend—and welcome 2012 in a healthy new way.

I hope this treat is a hint of what’s to come in 2012: simplicity, healthfulness and chocolate!

Review: Vegan’s Daily Companion

I believe we all bring our own unique talents into the world, and we all have the power to use those talents to make the world a better place. Since adopting a plant-based diet nearly 20 years ago, I’ve aspired to use my skills and assets to advocate on behalf of animals, and to be a joyful example of veganism at its best.

Having a guide or friend to help along the way can make a difference in how I approach each day and each conversation. That is the very reason I bought Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s recent book, Vegan’s Daily Companion, while visiting her in California this past summer. To me, Colleen is both a hero and a friend and, surely, she is an inspiration to the entire vegan community. In this well-organized guidebook, she offers knowledge and support to advocates through affirmations, stories and recipes, some of which include the work of other people as well as familiar material from her own popular podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought.

The premise behind this wonderful resource is to educate and encourage new vegans and empower seasoned activists. It is designed as a series of daily readings. You can read from the beginning, following the days of the week through the calendar year, or reading one entry a day (except for Saturday and Sunday, which are combined). You can also read from the middle of the book, or the end, or skip around from week to week as inspiration strikes.

♥ Mondays are “For the love of food,” celebrating sustenance and eating healthfully.

♥ Tuesdays are “Compassionate communication,” sharing techniques and tactics for speaking on behalf of veganism effectively and compassionately.

♥ Wednesdays are “Optimum health for body, mind and spirit,” highlighting care and maintenance for becoming and remaining a joyful vegan.

♥ Thursdays are “Animals in the arts: literature and film,” offering inspirational stories that reflect our consciousness of and relationship with nonhuman animals.

♥ Fridays are “Stories of hope, rescue and transformation,” telling heartening stories of people who have become awakened and animals who have found sanctuary.

♥ Saturdays and Sundays are “Healthful recipes,” sharing favourite recipes to use as activism and nourishment.

Raw gingerbread people

Have you noticed the growing population of gingerbread people invading the Internet these days? If there was an ideal time for these edible little people to come out, it would be now. Fragrant with molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, gingerbread cookies are always on the menu for hungry friends and family to devour after the big family meal. They’re perfect for cookie swaps, cookie platters and baskets, or even wrapped up with festive crinkle paper and tied with a pretty bow.

As much as I love the traditional (vegan) recipes—and I have many!—I’m here to introduce my latest holiday favourite. Inspired by a desire to incorporate healthier ingredients into my holiday baking repertoire, I wanted to give the basic idea a new, raw foodie twist to balance out the other sugary items that are sure to be involved.

Alas, these cute little raw gingerbread people are made with ingredients like almonds, flax and freshly grated ginger. This recipe is based on my flourless almond ginger cookies and is a great option for anyone trying to avoid gluten or sugar this season. These cookies are dense and chewy and have a nice gingery bite to them. Another bonus is that they can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer until your guests arrive.

Walnut shortbread

The winter holidays just aren’t the same without shortbread. After the successful outcome of my last few walnut recipes, it only made sense that my next kitchen experiment would involve a holiday favourite.

Traditional shortbread recipes are based on the soft, buttery flavour we all know and love. I rarely make use of vegan buttery sticks for baking, but as my husband said to me as he took his first bite of this shortbread, “sometimes you just gotta live a little!”

I initially envisioned something a little different than plain shortbread. Instead, this recipe makes use of toasted walnuts, kamut flour and some pure maple syrup, which give these cookies lots of character. Soft and buttery and oh-so delicious, you’d be crazy not to add them to your holiday baking list.

The best part is they’re fairly easy to whip together because they require just a few ingredients. This made me think they would be perfect to gift to my cookie-loving family and friends. But instead of baking them myself, I simply layered the dry ingredients (toasted walnut meal, kamut flour, all-purpose flour and sugar, and then top with chopped walnuts for garnish) in 1-litre mason jars and added a recipe card and a pretty bow. All the gift recipient has to do is add their own vegan butter and maple syrup. It’s a simple and thoughtful gift that is perfect for Christmas. Enjoy!

Goodbye Gracias and Gratitude?

The announcement of the impending sale or closure of all Northern California locations of Cafe Gratitude as well as Gracias Madre feels like a huge blow to the vegan food scene. I have to admit, I was shocked and almost teared up when I read the news on Huffington Post on Tuesday.

The news took me back to my California trip with Lisa back in August, where we toured the many vegan restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Both Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre were top priorities. While the notice on Cafe Gratitude’s website says they will still be open for a few more months, I’m sad that I won’t be able to make it back there for one last meal (unless I go to LA).

Both restaurants share similar values of love, nourishment and celebration, and my experience was nothing less. At Cafe Gratitude, the menu is organic, mostly raw and all vegan. Knowing their two cookbooks, I am Grateful and Sweet Gratitude, are full of inspiring, high quality recipes, I was eager to browse through similar selections on their menu and had a hard time selecting just one meal to try. I was particularly impressed after spotting their I am Grateful dish, which was created so that people in need could have access to nourishing vegan food.

After much debate, I decided on the I am Complete, a Mediterranean plate with raw almond hummus, olive tapenade, live falafel, cucumber tzatziki salad and flax crackers. While the falafel were slightly dry, the sauces and dips were superb and I couldn’t help but finish the entire plate.