30 November 2012

Bake Sale Day!

Well, today was the day!  Ladies Night Out!  This past week was filled with baking, sacrificing sleep and foregoing yoga classes in an effort to offer a wide assortment of treats for tonight's event.  I'm really happy with how everything turned out and am so proud of myself for all the hard work I put into this past week.

However, I was a little disappointed with the turnout of tonight's event.  I had hoped to sell a lot more than I did but at least I got to talk to some nice people and offer some samples.  Four very special people in my life showed up to support me though and their coming meant the world to me.  My mom also came to help me set up--right after her long, busy day at work, no less--and stayed with me for an hour or so.  She is definitely the most supportive person in my life who loves me unconditionally and is, without a doubt, my best friend.  I was happy she was there.

I'm going to attempt to peddle ALL the leftover treats I have at my yoga studio this weekend and hopefully they'll go!  Otherwise I'm going to be eating a lot of sweets for the next few weeks...

Oh!  And another thing worth mentioning: I came home tonight to find SIX items in the mail for me!  That never happens!!!  I received my shipment of Red Navel Oranges from Sun Harvest Citrus and ate an orange almost immediately--it was wonderful.  A woman who practices at my studio recommended the company to me and I was NOT disappointed.  The orange was juicy, sweet and super orange-y tasting.  The Red Navels' season is ending soon too so I'm glad I got 'em when I did!

 I also received a letter from JET, informing me that they had received my application and that it was being processed...yahoo!  I love baking and I love yoga but I need to find something that offers me a little more self-sufficiency.  I applied to JET about two weeks ago and early next year I will find out if I made it on to the interview stage!  JET is a program that sends native English-speakers (me!) to Japan for a year to teach Japanese to school-aged children.  I think getting accepted into the JET Program would be such a wonderful experience for me that would really allow me to grow and learn more about myself.

If I don't get accepted into JET, I might attend cooking school!  Awhile ago I requested information on The Natural Gourmet School and they sent me a ton of literature today!

I also got a sweet little note, drawing, magnet and charm from my friend who lives in Austin, Texas.  I got a memo from U of M's Germanic Languages Department requesting money (of which I have none) and a recent New Yorker issue!  I was on cloud nine!

That's all for now!  I think I might run before work tomorrow, which I did last weekend and enjoyed, but who knows--I might be too tired.  In which case, I'll take care of myself and sleep :)

P.S.  I just wanted to share one more thing:  a custom order I received recently for my gluten-free salted caramel chocolate chunk bars.

28 November 2012

Chugging Along (And A Recipe!)

Sooooo tired.

I worked this evening until 9 pm or so, then I went to the store to get a few more ingredients/packaging supplies for my event this Friday, then I came home, tweaked my recipes and got to baking!  I made some vegan peppermint rice crispy treats and some almond bark and it is now 2 am.  I am not going to yoga tomorrow.  Or today, rather : /

I decided to include a recipe for the vegan and gluten-free rice crispy treats I made.  I'm very pleased with how they turned out.  A lot of the recipes I came across online either had nut butter for a binding ingredient (which I'm sure would taste amazing but it is not what I was going for), vegan marshmallows (again, amazing, I'm sure, but I didn't want to use them for this particular recipe) and corn syrup, which I try to avoid.  I came up with a recipe that turned out great and has a lot of room for variations, which I'll note.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Mint Chocolate Krispies
-  1/2 c. brown rice syrup (or agave nectar, which might make it a little sweeter so adjust accordingly)
-  1/4 c. +  2 T. cane sugar
-  1/2 T. Earth Balance
-  3 heaping T. cocoa powder
-  Heaping 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
-  Scant 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
-  1/8 tsp. salt
-  3 c. puffed rice cereal (My favorite brand is Erewhon and for this recipe I used their Gluten-Free Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)
-  4 oz. chocolate, for drizzling (I used Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate--all mint chocolate bars are NOT created equal and I find this bar to be excellent!)
-  3-4 crushed peppermint candies or candy canes (you can use more/less depending on how peppermint-y you want your crispy treats)
-  Mini chocolate chips, for sprinkling on top (optional...kind of ;)

1.  Combine agave nectar and cane sugar on stove over medium heat.  Once sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling, add Earth Balance.  Once Earth Balance is melted, stir in cocoa powder until fully incorporated.  Remove from heat and add extracts and salt.  Mix in rice cereal and press into prepared dish.
2.  Allow squares to firm up in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes.
3.  Drizzle with melted chocolate, crushed peppermint candies and mini chocolate chips.

- Omit cocoa powder and peppermint extract and increase vanilla extract to 1/2 tsp. for original rice crispy treats.

-  Add 1/2 c. peanut butter and omit peppermint extract for chocolate-peanut butter rice crispy treats.  You may also choose to eliminate the cocoa powder for just plain, peanut butter rice crispy treats.  Additionally, you could use almond, cashew, hazelnut or another nut butter for variation!
-  Use 1/3 c. tightly packed brown sugar, 1 T. Earth Balance and a scant 1/2 tsp. salt for salted caramel-y type crispy treats ;)

Lastly, I made roasted almond chocolate bark, which turned out beautifully!  It was my first time making bark and it is DEFINITELY something I will make again.  Even though this particular almond bark was pretty simple, I think I'd like to experiment with other flavor combinations like dried cherries and pistachios or even a crystallized ginger and orange peel combo!

After the bark set, I broke it into imperfect, uneven pieces and placed the pieces in adorable snowman and penguin bags, which I'll take pictures of later to post!

I started my granola bombs tonight too...

Going to bed now.

27 November 2012

Ladies Night Out Event

This Friday I am participating in an event where I will get to sell my baked goods!  I am so excited!  I started baking today and am going to try and make as many of my treats as close to the event day as possible to ensure maximum freshness!  There are a couple of things I know will be fine frozen/refrigerated until Friday bur other things, like mini pumpkin pies, I'm going to make the day before.

I went to Meijer to get gift bags and other cute packaging for my treats, and Meijer had, surprisingly, a great selection!  I got stickers, cute little boxes, bags and plate kits (which I'm not sure how I'm going to use yet).  While I love baking, I think my favorite part is packaging everything up.  I tried to choose packaging that was religion-neutral, since not everyone celebrates Christmas.

The first things I baked were my brownie cookies and my chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.  The cookies will freeze great until Friday and the macaroons will do A-OK in the fridge.  I don't want to freeze them because I fear that when they thaw they might lose their crunch and get a little soggy.  I'm not sure of this but I don't want to risk it.  Soggy macaroons?  Yuck.

Participants in the event are required to donate an item of their choice for a silent auction (I forget where the money goes--I want to say something affiliated with kids/local public school system).  I assembled a sample platter with brownie cookies, macaroons, chocolate-dipped macaroons, iced pumpkin chai cookies (which I made awhile ago and froze, and I tested one of the thawed cookies last night and they are just as fresh-tasting--freezers are awesome!), lemon sugar cookies and a piece of my pumpkin roll.  I might add more stuff to the platter as I continue to bake or I might just leave it as is.

And so, without further ado, here's what I've made so far!!  The selection includes THE BEST (if I do say so myself) vegan AND gluten-free caramel corn, chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, vegan truffle-stuffed Oreo chunk cookies (I set a couple aside to freeze when I made these recently), vegan AND gluten-free Butterfingers (recipe modified from Chocolate-Covered Katie) and vegan brownie cookies.  I suppose all the "vegan"s go without saying but I wanted to differentiate between the solely vegan items and the vegan AND gluten-free items.

My unofficial list of items I will be selling at the event are as follows:

- Vegan Brownie Cookies- Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Butterfingers
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Caramel Corn
- Vegan Truffle-Stuffed Oreo Chunk Cookies (probably)
- Vegan Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll (maybe)
- Vegan Mini Pumpkin Pies (maybe)
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Pumpkin Fudge
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate-Covered Granola Bombs
- Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Gourmet Pretzels
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate-Peppermint Krispies

Any other ideas????

25 November 2012

Brownie Cookies

Two of my favorite sweets are brownies and cookies.  For the custom Thanksgiving day order I received, I decided to make brownie cookies!

Every year, the yoga studio I work at holds a special, donation-based Thanksgiving day yoga class.  Donations go to Camp Mak-A-Dream, which is a cost-free camp, located in Montana, for children and young adults struggling with cancer.  This year we raised around $700, which is awesome.

The teacher who taught the class this year created special goodie bags for those who came out to practice and support Camp Mak-A-Dream.  She included burned CDs in the goodie bags, along with incense sticks, gift coupons for a massage discount and my cookies!  I didn't get a chance to photograph them in the packaging, complete with Thanksgiving Snoopy stickers, but I did manage to photograph them fresh out of the oven!

My next goal is to try and make these cookies gluten-free!