Christmas Day in Photos

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas Day. Ours was really nice; we opened presents together in the morning, which was so fun and full of so many laughs!! And then we spent the day playing with our different presents, hanging out together, and cooking dinner. Since my mom and I are the only vegans in the family, my dad cooked Maine lobster tails for the rest of our family. Mom made this awesome vegan potato and turnip mash, and I made little hand pies filled with wild rice, mushrooms, chickpeas, and vegetables. It was probably our most gourmet meal yet 😉

The moment my brother Elliot opened up the camera and lens, he started taking pictures. This was one of the first ones, featuring Bianca and my mom at our dining room table.


This of course continued as we all started to get dressed, which is impossible to do without holding the dog a little!


Dad and I had some snuggle time as well.


Then, Elliot and Bianca headed outside for a little photo shoot.

I’m now realizing that most of these photos are of Bianca. Oops… actually nope, no regrets. She’s that great.


Ooh, look, it’s a photo I took myself!! This was just my view on the dining room table as I took photos of the scrapbooks for yesterday’s post and generally messed around with the camera.


I also made some macarons with the new sifter that Mom gave me (thank you mummy!) so I took a picture of the cookies as they dried out before baking.


A little later, it was time to cook and eat dinner. These are the vegan hand pies that I made, adapted from the spring hand pie recipe in the My New Roots cookbook.


These plates have lobster, wild rice stir fry, lobster and vegetables, and hand pies.


A family photo or two was taken.


And at the end of the evening, Bianca was paid for the modeling efforts she exerted all day.


Almost all of these photos were taken by Elliot, my older brother. He’s pretty excited about the new camera! And that was pretty much our Christmas Day. I hope you enjoyed all the photos.

Christmas Scrapbooks

Crafting stuff is SO fun, especially when it’s Christmas-related!! So, of course, I like to make a few gifts. Last year, I made my dad a clay model of the horse that he liked to ride, and made one for myself, too. I think they turned out really nicely, and the paint job is my favorite part.



By the way, I used the same cookie cutter for these as I did for a lot of the gingerbread cookies that I made a few days ago (check them out on Instagram @thekalestorm 🙂 ). We’ve really gotten a lot of mileage out of those cutters. I don’t even know how old they are! And there are a couple whose intended identities are…. ambiguous. For example, the sleigh/elf’s boot/snow boot/pi minus one leg, and the Michigan mitten/glove/bird!

Anyway, though, for this year’s handmade Christmas presents, I made my parents each a mini scrapbook documenting a few moments of 2015. I didn’t even know I was going to do that project until last weekend, so it was an intense few days of scrapbooking, but it was SO fun and totally worth it, especially when I saw how much my mom and dad loved them. Here are a few photos!


Those photos were taken by our new camera!! This was a family Christmas present, to us and from us. It’s a k3 Pentax, and is probably the fanciest piece of technology I’ve ever used, aside from my computer. I’m so excited to be able to put better photos on TKS!

I think that tomorrow I’ll post a Christmas recap, with a bunch of photos from the new camera. But for now, here’s a little preview of the World’s Most Documented Dog 😀


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Hey guys! How were your weekends? I don’t even know what’s going on with me right now to be honest. I’m trying to step up my Instagram game (I’m getting up 1 post per day if you want to check it out!) and also plan for 2 blog posts per week (Mondays and Fridays 🙂 yay for consistency!). Also, you know, Christmas is coming, and I’m planning a few presents for my family. All in all, it’s Christmas break, and I feel so busy. It’s mostly a fun kind of busy, though. Oh, and I’m getting together a Christmas cookie decorating party this week, so you might see a few photos! Exciting stuff, man.

Anyway- I made us some more soup! This is based on Minimalist Baker’s Curried Butternut Squash Soup. It’s essentially butternut squash, spices/seasonings, onions and garlic, and liquid, all blended up into creamy oblivion. I used Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste, which I love because of its many layers of flavor and hint of spiciness. I also topped it off with some plain curry powder, maple syrup, and nutritional yeast for a little more savoriness.

This recipe makes a pretty small batch of soup – I’d say it only would serve four people – so go ahead and double it if you wish. It’s also highly adjustable, so if your butternut squash is absolutely gigantic, add extra liquid to thin it out, and if your squash is very small, decrease the water a little. And, if you decide the soup is too thin, just let it simmer uncovered for 15-30 minutes, checking occasionally, until the texture is where you want it.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

adapted from Minimalist Baker‘s Curried Butternut Squash Soup


1 onion

1/2 or 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste)

a couple of dashes of curry powder

a couple of dashes of cinnamon

2 tablespoons maple syrup

salt to taste

pepper to taste

1 small butternut squash

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

2 cups of water

a generous pour of coconut milk *


Dice the onion, and peel and dice the butternut squash. Heat up a large soup pot over medium heat (not hot enough to make the oil smoke, but fairly hot) and add the coconut oil. When the coconut oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the butternut squash, the curry paste, the cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir well, cover, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the water, coconut milk, and maple syrup. Cover, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer covered for 15 minutes. Then, use a blender (I used an immersion blender) to blend until completely smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, and then add salt and curry powder to taste. Finally, if the soup is too thin for your preference, allow to simmer uncovered for 15-30 minutes.


* you may of course leave out the coconut milk if you want it to be lower in fat. Just replace with water or vegetable stock.

* I like to serve this with a drizzle of coconut milk on top. My dad would tell you to use some Louisiana hot sauce, too!


Minimalist Baker PB & J Muffins

I really like Minimalist Baker – it’s such a fun space, with those beautiful photographs and creative recipes! I’m always interested to try Dana’s creations, and that’s how I found this recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins.


These muffins are vegan and gluten free, and can be refined sugar free as well. They are very soft, rich, and moist, and in my opinion, they are almost more like cupcakes than muffins!

This is a one-bowl recipe, which is always appreciated, and doesn’t generate too many dishes. It also uses pretty standard ingredients, like almond flour, gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s 1:1 Baking Flour, which is recommended in the recipe), rolled oats, and maple syrup.

I think that the flavor of the muffins, while good, would benefit from a bit more salt to bring out the peanut butter in the batter. Also, some chopped peanuts would be great to make the actual muffin itself a little more interesting. All the same, though, the muffins taste pretty darn good.

I’d recommend that you add a little extra flour if your batter seems too wet. I didn’t, even though my batter was wetter than the description given in the recipe, and I think my muffins turned out just a little too soft because of it. Just a word of caution!

I made a mistake with this recipe: I didn’t swirl the peanut butter and jelly into the tops of the unbaked muffins before baking. I think that would have helped keep the jelly on top/inside the muffins, instead of sliding off while baking, and would have prevented the middle of the muffins from sinking (which they did, but not too badly. Again, more flour likely would have solved that problem!).


Overall, I’d definitely recommend this recipe for some fun and dessert-y (is that a word?) muffins. Just make sure to swirl your peanut butter and jelly, and pay attention to the thickness of your batter! 😁

Slice ‘n’ Bake Pecan Cookies

Hey guys! I have a really fun recipe to share with you today. How do chocolate-covered slice ‘n’ bake pecan cookies sound??


Have you ever made slice ‘n’ bakes before? I hadn’t, but when I saw this post by Sally’s Baking Addiction, I knew I had to try it! However, Sally’s Baking Addiction isn’t a vegan blog at all. So, I used her recipe as a base and tweaked a few things, such as:

  1. Replacing the chicken’s egg with a flax egg
  2. Replacing the dairy butter with Earth Balance
  3. Replacing the hazelnuts with pecans

The pecans are toasted before making the cookie dough, which makes them so flavorful. I chopped mine medium-size before putting them in the oven. IMG_2764.JPG

Then, when I added the pecan pieces to the cookie dough, my Kitchen Aid mixer broke them up even more, so that in the end, you have pretty small pieces of pecan in the cookies.

When first mixed up, the dough is just like your average cookie dough. It’s sticky and soft and almost oily (and super yummy. Obviously). But, once I rolled up the two logs of dough in some plastic wrap and let it chill for four hours, it was perfectly manageable. It makes sense that the original recipe says chilling is mandatory!


Then, I just sliced the cookie logs so that they were a size that made sense to me. I ended up with 30 fairly small cookies.

Slice ‘n’ Bake Pecan Cookies

adapted from Toasted Hazelnut Slice ‘n’ Bake Cookies with Milk Chocolate by Sally’s Baking Addiction


3/4 cup Earth Balance, cold

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal, 3 tablespoons warm water)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup roughly chopped pecans, divided

1 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate, if that’s what you have)


In an oven preheated to 300º F, toast the chopped pecans for 10 minutes. Mix together the flax meal and warm water for the flax egg and let stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Meanwhile, beat the Earth Balance for 1 minute in a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy and light, with no chunks of sugar or Earth Balance. Add the thickened flax egg and the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and cinnamon. Then, add the dry ingredients in small increments to the Earth Balance mixture. Finally, add 3/4 cup of the toasted pecan chunks to the dough, reserving the last 1/4 cup of pecan chunks for later.

Scoop out the cookie dough onto a floured surface. If the dough seems too sticky, you may add a bit more flour. I added about 1/4 cup. Divide in half, and tightly roll into two logs of cookie dough. Mine were about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. They will seem really soft and sticky until the end of the refrigeration period, and then they will suddenly firm up and become much more manageable.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap one log of cookie dough and slice into 15 or so cookies. Bake for 16 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned. Take the tray out of the oven, allow to cool for five minutes, then place the cookies on a cooling rack. Repeat the process with the other log of cookie dough. You also may bake all of the cookie slices from both logs at once if you have two cookie sheets that fit in your oven at the same time.

Once all of the cookies are cool, melt the chocolate chips on the stove or in the microwave. I melted mine in the microwave by putting them in for 20 seconds, then stirring, then 20 more seconds, then stirring again, and so on until they were completely melted and smooth. Dip one end of each cookie in the chocolate – I think generally about 1/3 or 1/4 of each cookie getting dipped in the chocolate is good. Place the dipped cookies on a sheet of parchment paper to allow the chocolate to set, and use the last 1/4 cup of toasted pecan pieces to press into the melted chocolate on each cookie. Allow the chocolate to set for a few hours, and then they are ready to eat! All uneaten cookies should be stored in a airtight container.


Vegan and GF Snickerdoodles

You know you are a baker through-and-through when you get up at 6:15 AM on a Saturday morning in order to bake cookies!


I’ve been vegan for a year and a half, and yet, it has taken me until this very day to make vegan snickerdoodles! I’m so glad I finally did, because these cookies are awesome. I used this recipe by Oh She Glows.

These cookies use a base of oat flour, almond flour, and sorghum flour. However, I replaced the small amount of sorghum flour with brown rice flour (you can only have so many flours in the house at one time… #bakerproblems). Instead of Earth Balance, the cookies call for virgin coconut oil, and the sugar is just some basic cane sugar. It’s a pretty simple recipe, really, and, in my opinion, is a much healthier choice than many other holiday cookies. After all, they have rice, almond, and oat flours instead of AP; a conservative amount of sugar; unrefined coconut oil  instead of Earth Balance; and even a little flax meal.

The texture is great! They have almost-crunchy edges, with chewy middles and a nice coating of cinnamon sugar on the outside. And the flavor is awesome – all sorts of cinnamon-y, sugar-y, maybe a little oat-y flavors going on. You can tell they are made of something other than AP white flour, but in a good way; you can just taste a little more complexity than in your average cookies.



I found that my cookie dough was just a little too soft, meaning that the baked cookies spread out a little too much for my liking. I think that was 100% my error though, and a touch more flour would have fixed that problem right up! And the cookies are delicious, whether or not they are a little too thin. I’m not that picky.



You can see here that the balls of cookie dough had already started to flatten and lose their ball shape before baking.

My favorite thing about this recipe is its simplicity. It’s a no-mixer recipe, with only 13 ingredients total. Basically, you stir your dry ingredients together; you stir your wet ingredients together; you combine the dry and wet ingredients; stir together a little cinnamon and sugar; and roll up your cookie dough balls. Super easy! 🙂

I’d definitely recommend this recipe for your holiday baking. It’s easy, delicious, even a little bit healthy (!), and won’t give you a headache. Sounds good to me.

Mixed Bean and Butternut Soup

Hey, guys! Today I got home from church and immediately kicked into high cooking gear. The result? This awesome mixed bean and butternut squash soup.


I’m really excited about this soup! I heavily adapted a recipe that my aunt gave me, and it turned out really, really well. It’s full of: sliced, sautéed onions and garlic; chickpeas, black beans, and pinto beans; flavorful chopped tomatoes; and a yummy, savory broth that takes a lot of its power from butternut squash purée.

For my own Sunday lunch, I had a bowl of this soup with a biscuit made from Minimalist Baker‘s Best Damn Vegan Biscuits. I’ve made the biscuits before with 100% all-purpose white flour, but today, for a slightly healthier twist, I used 75% all-purpose white flour and 25% whole wheat flour. I also made smaller biscuits than the recipe recommends; I ended up with 10 biscuits instead of 7. They turned out really well and were a great accompaniment to the soup.

Mixed Bean and Butternut Soup


  • 1.5 cup/ 1 can of cooked black beans *
  • 1.5 cup/ 1 can of cooked chickpeas *
  • 1.5 cup/ 1 can of cooked pinto beans *
  • 14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes, juices included *
  • 15 oz can of butternut squash purée *
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • a pinch of ground pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used a vegetable bouillon cube + water for my broth)
  • salt to taste **


Wash, peel, and chop the onion. I chopped mine into medium-sized pieces. Heat up the coconut oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat, then add the chopped onions. Sauté the onions for about 6 minutes, or until they have softened and some are beginning to brown. They should look somewhat like the picture below.


Once the onions have reached this point, add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the cumin and chili powder, and sauté for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the salt, stir well, cover, and bring to a boil. Once a boil is reached, uncover the pot, lower heat to medium, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Finally, taste the soup and add your preferred amount of salt. My vegetable broth wasn’t particularly salty, so I added about a teaspoon.


* I generally use, and always recommend, organic beans and vegetables.

** I used one vegetable bouillon cube for my 4 cups of water, which was half the amount recommended on the package. This was to prevent over-salting and allow me a bit more control over the flavors.




Minimalist Baker Blackberry Corn Muffins

I’m so glad that Thanksgiving Break is here for us school-age kids. I always struggle with being unable to bake and blog as much as I would like to during the week, and often, especially these past few weeks, my weekends are packed. For example: last Saturday, I had a performing arts rehearsal at 9:00 AM, then driver’s ed at 10:30, and and a riding lesson (at a barn that is an hour away!) at 2:00. It was a really fun day in a lot of ways, but by the end, there was no way I was going to do any baking! But now that it’s break, I can do a bunch of recipe reviewing and cooking. And watching The Great British Baking Show because that show is awesome. I digress. Let’s talk about muffins!


The recipe I used here is for Minimalist Baker Blackberry Corn Muffins, which is vegan but not gluten free. They were really quite surprisingly good! They are crumbly but not overly delicate, sweet but not saccharine, and have the most lovely golden tops.


The recipe uses all-purpose wheat flour and cornmeal for the base, with plenty of applesauce, a conservative amount of vegan butter, and two flax eggs for moisture. They are sweetened with a bit of maple syrup and 1/2 a cup of cane sugar, so they are probably not the corn muffins you want to serve with chili. I think they work best as a snack or breakfast item.

I followed the recipe pretty true to form, except for two things:

  • I used polenta (coarse cornmeal) instead of the fine cornmeal recommended by the recipe
  • I used reconstituted raisins instead of blackberries inside the muffins. I also think I used less than were called for; maybe 3/4 of a cup instead of 1 full cup.

I think these substitutions still maintained the integrity of the recipe very well, so I have no qualms about the accuracy of my review. With that said though, I bet that blackberries would be even better than raisins!

This is not the most intuitive recipe I’ve ever made, but it only uses 1 bowl and no mixers, so I’m good with that. Instead of having a bowl for dry ingredients and a bowl for wet ingredients, you mix together the wet ingredients and sugar in a couple of stages, and then add the dry ingredients. Finally, you fold in the berries/raisins, and you’re ready to put them in the oven.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: the recipe tells you to combine the apple cider vinegar, the baking soda, and the almond milk very early on in the process. You add them all to a measuring cup, stir them together, and let them fizz. I was super skeptical about this; I thought that since the baking soda and ACV were already combined, there would be no leavening-ability left, and the muffins wouldn’t rise. However, I’m very pleased to say that I was completely wrong! The muffins rose perfectly – not just well, but even better than many other muffin recipes I’ve made. I thought that that was super interesting and I’ll be investigating why exactly that method worked so well! #bakingnerd

The yield is ten nice, plump muffins. They have beautiful domes and are good and hearty. I love them! 10/10 for this recipe by Minimalist Baker!





Question of the Day:

What is your favorite way to exercise? Mine is probably doing yoga, but I love to ride horses, and let me tell you – that is a workout!

Oh She Glows Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2554Time for another Recipe Review post! Presenting my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies by Oh She Glows! I get so much satisfaction in finding the “perfect” recipe for pretty much anything – vegan biscuits, chocolate cakes, etc. Although I have yet to find the perfect vegan biscuit recipe, I think this is pretty much the perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie.

Here’s what you need to know:

* this is not health food. I’m good with that, if you are!

* I consider this to be a very good, classic chocolate chip cookie. For me, that means they are soft, chewy, very sweet, and full of buttery vanilla flavor.

* these cookies contain gluten. As for soy and nuts, that just depends on which brand of chocolate chips you use. I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips and they are my new favorites! I like them much better than Enjoy Life brand, which are too sweet and one-dimensional for me.

*The recipe gives you an option for the fat source: you may use 7 tablespoons Earth Balance and 1 tablespoon olive oil for a crispier cookie, or a full 8 tablespoons (half a cup) of Earth Balance for a softer cookie. I opted for only Earth Balance, resulting in a very soft and chewy cookie.

*making super large cookies (mine were about the size of my palm), the yield is about 9 cookies.

* I found that this recipe took me about 30 minutes to get into the oven, mostly because I used a stand mixer rather than a hand mixer. Pretty easy, as far as cookies go!

* I baked my cookies for about 12 minutes, but it’s easy to tell when they are done. They will be puffy (though they flatten down when out of the oven), with very slightly golden edges and still-pale tops.


I highly recommend this recipe to anybody, vegan or otherwise, and I hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂

Question of the Day:

Will you be cooking for Thanksgiving? Or will you be enjoying somebody else’s labors? I plan on doing both!



Vegan Macarons?? My experience so far.

I made vegan macarons!!! I’m sorry for using my outside voice but I thought that was pretty cool. Have you ever made macarons, vegan or otherwise? I hadn’t until this weekend, and I had to do it twice before I could post anything about them on the blog because, as I found out, macarons are kind of tricky (duh).


I used this recipe from Morsels and Moonshine (but I left out the amaretto!). It’s for chocolate macarons with a chocolate filling, but I altered the filling to make it strawberry and chocolate flavored instead. I’ll write the altered filling recipe at the bottom of the post, but now, let’s talk details, as I love to do!

The first time I attempted this recipe, I processed my dry ingredients in the food processor and sifted manually through a sieve. This made my finished macarons super silky and smooth, but I didn’t add enough of the dry mixture to my meringue, making them too runny and thin. The second time I made the recipe, I processed my dry ingredients using a blender and… did not sift. I just couldn’t face all that manual sifting! This meant that my macarons were a little more lumpy, but I personally don’t even think that is noticeable once the macarons are baked. Also, on the second go-round, I added all of the dry mixture to the meringue, and the texture was much better.

I used the aquafaba (which is simply the liquid from inside a can of chickpeas) from one can of chickpeas, and reduced it on the stove down to about 1/3 of a cup. To make the meringue, I whip the aquafaba using a stand mixer. I have done this both when the aquafaba was still hot from the stove and when it had cooled for 10 minutes or so, and got the same result each time. First, I whipped the reduced aquafaba on level 6 for 2 minutes. After the first two minutes, I added the granulated sugar and whipped this mixture on level 8 for 5 minutes. Finally, I added a teaspoon of vanilla and whipped for one more minute on level 8. This seriously produced the BEST meringue! It’s super glossy, super thick, and doesn’t even taste or smell like chickpeas.

ugh. so pretty

To make the actual macarons, I put my combined batter (dry mix + meringue) into a piping bag, used a basic circular piping tip, and piped out little circles onto a baking sheet. The recipe recommends a Silpat baking mat, but lacking one of those, I used a sheet of parchment paper (and it worked just fine).

my unbaked cookies, first try. you can see that they’re perfectly smooth, but a few have run into one another.
un-baked cookies, second time. they are not quite as smooth but the texture is stiffer and they hold their shape.
un-baked cookies, second time

The recipe instructs that the unbaked macarons should sit out on the counter for 45-60 minutes before baking. Each time I made the macarons, I did this. The first time, they never became fully dry to the touch. The second time, they were dry to a very light touch.

I followed the recipe’s instructions for baking, which are as follows: bake at 205º F for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the cookies inside for 15 minutes; and finally to open the oven door but keep the cookies in it for another 15 minutes before taking them out. That seemed to work pretty well, though I’m not sure exactly the reasons for doing so. I’d imagine it’s something to do with easing the temperature transition from hot oven to cool kitchen. Also, I learned by experience (this was very #pinterest, trust me) that you definitely shouldn’t lift the baked macarons off of their cookie sheet until they are completely cool. If you don’t wait long enough, the bottoms won’t come off properly.

and they’re baked! this is the second batch. they had not cooled yet (note to self- WAIT before touching!)

Finally, I made my frosting just by stirring together in a bowl. No mixer required! 🙂 I didn’t pipe it onto the cookies, either… I just put a nice blob on one half and twisted the cookies together.

Strawberry and Chocolate Frosting


2 tablespoons vegan shortening

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons seedless strawberry jelly

almond milk as needed (I used about 1 tsp)

pinch of salt


Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl with a spoon. You may use a small blender or food processor, but it’s not necessary.

Then, to make the sandwich cookies, I just put a blob of frosting on one cookie, put another on top, and twisted lightly to bind them together.



This was such a cool project to try, especially since I just realized that I’ve made almost zero international baked goods. Now I’m super excited to make cool baked goods from different cultures! I think I’ll try to make vegan Christstollen, and for sure different flavors of macarons. Morsels and Moonshine has a recipe for earl grey + lemon macarons, and that sounds fabulous. What’s your favorite baked good from somewhere other than the US?