Christmas series: Chocolate cake!

Tonight, I am finally, officially on Christmas break! Hooray! What better way to start the break than to share my newest chocolate cake recipe! Yay!

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This cake is quite dense, which makes it perfect for a layered cake. For this, I used cranberry sauce and coconut frosting: perfect match!

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Here is what you need:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups or 250 g of hazelnuts
  • coconut oil for greasing the mold

Here is what you need to do:

  1. In your food processor, grind the hazelnuts until you have a fine powder. If you want hazelnut chunks in your cake, you can put some aside and add them in the food processor when you already have a nice powder. Pulse for a few seconds.
  2. In your blender or food processor, mix the bananas, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and milk. Blend until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, pour your chocolaty mix, the flour and hazelnuts. With a wooden spoon, mix until all the flour is incorporated.
  4. Grease your cake mold, pour your cake mix in and put in your preheated oven at 350F. Let cook for 30 minutes or until a dry toothpick comes out clean and dry.
  5. Let the cake cool before you put the cream on. You can also cut your cake in two to make a layer cake.

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This cake is very chocolaty and has a very nice texture because of the hazelnuts.

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The cranberry sauce really balances out the sweetness, and the coconut cream adds a little bit of freshness to the ensemble.

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Please try it out and let me know what you think!

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Christmas series: Cranberry Sauce!

This is my first time making cranberry sauce, and I seriously don’t know why: it’s so easy and tasty!

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Here is what you need:

  • 200g cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 clementine
  • water

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Pulse the peeled clementine in your blender.
  2. Add water to the blended clementine so that you have 1/2 cup of liquid.
  3. In a sauce pan, put the clementine juice, the sugar and cranberries.
  4. Bring to a boil while stirring.
  5. Bring down the heat, and cover. Let sit for a few minutes until all the cranberries have popped (and enjoy the sound of it!).

If you do not have a clementine on hand, you can also substitute it and the water with orange juice.

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Once chilled, this cranberry sauce is a lot like jam. It is perfect with desserts or grilled vegetables. Very versatile indeed! And look at that color!

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Keep on the look out for what I’ll do with it! 🙂

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Christmas Series: Hot Pot Dinner!

I am so excited to share this recipe with you! I had a lot of fun planning, cooking and eating it!

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As I was looking for a fun recipe for a Christmas dinner party, I wanted to stay away from fake turkeys, or any traditional food. I wanted something refreshing, original and shareable. When I imagined it, I wanted people to have to talk to each other, have fun and share something good. To me, this is what Christmas is about.

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While browsing my cookbooks, I stumbled upon Isa’s mushroom hot pot. This was it! I really wanted to modify this recipe to make it more like a Chinese fondue where people cook their own food in a rich broth.

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So I grabbed my boyfriend and we went on a mission to the Asian supermarket. I really wanted to find fun vegetables, mushrooms and fragrant herbs to make this hot pot exceptional, while still paying a reasonable price for everything. I really suggest investing your local Asian store as they often have a great selection of vegetables, mushrooms and herbs for a fraction of the price you’d pay in a regular supermarket.

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Needless to say, we were not disappointed. This is so exciting! It was a lot of fun to try out, and everyone around the table was full and happy.

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Here is what you need (for 4-5 people):

For the broth:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cubes of vegetable broth
  • 8 cups of boiling water
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 3 whole star anise pods
  • 1.5 cinnamon stick
  • 5 lemon leaves
  • 3 tbs tamari sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 can (8.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 4 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if you use dried, soak them overnight)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro with the stalks (around 1 cup)

For the vegetables (These are the ones I used, but feel free to change them to what you have, like and find.)

  • 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 8 king oyster mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of enoki mushrooms
  • 1 bunch shimeji mushrooms
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 small broccoli head
  • 1 small chinese or zucchini squash
  • bamboo shoots (I bought a small head in an air sealed pack, but canned would work too)
  • 1 can of slices water chestnuts
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • 10 mini bok choys
  • 1 bunch of chinese broccoli or mixed greens
  • kelp noodles
  • fake meat of your choice (we used textured vegetable protein,or TVP)
  • fried tofu (you can buy this ready-made in Asian supermarkets)
  • lime slices (to serve)

Here is what you do:

  1. In a large pot, place the oil, chopped onion, chopped garlic cloves and minced ginger root. Cook on medium heat until fragrant. Add the salt and saute until the onions are translucent.
  2. While the onions are cooking, dissolve the vegetable broth cubes in 2 cups of boiling water and add the corn starch. Mix until completely dissolved.
  3. Slice the 4 shiitake mushrooms thinly (including the feet) and add them to the onions. Also slice up the red bell pepper (1/2) and add it to the pot. Continue to stir until the red bell pepper is softened.
  4. Take your vegetable broth and add it to the onion mix. Stir a little.
  5. To your broth, add the cinnamon stick, star anise pods, and lemon leaves. Stir until fragrant and add the rest of the water (6 cups).
  6. As the broth is cooking, start cutting your vegetables and display them on a plate. If you feel like you have too much of something, add it to the broth. This will give more flavour to your broth and will also make ‘fishing’ possible during the meal. I ended up adding about 1/3 of the vegetables to the broth while it was cooking. I find that the assortment of mushrooms really create a rich flavour. If you are using TVP, it would be a good idea to soak it in water now, just remember to squeeze the extra water out before serving. You can also drain and rince the kelp noodles.
  7. Taste the broth and add the soy sauce and pepper accordingly.
  8. Let the broth simmer.
  9. Once you are done cutting all your vegetables and are ready to serve, add the coconut milk and cilantro, and bring back to a simmer.
  10. Take your lemongrass stalk, and cut a few centimeters off both extremities. Then, cut the stalk in 3 or 4 parts. With a pestle or heavy cup, crush the lemongrass and add it to the broth. Adding it at the end really helps keep the flavour as it is quite volatile.

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To serve, make sure every one has a skewer stick or a little metal basket. Each person will pick and choose whatever they want cooked, put it in their basket and cook it in the broth. If you want, you can add lime juice to your own bowl, but I find that unnecessary. Still, it’s nice to have that option. We used a portable cook top to keep the broth simmering throughout dinner.

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The broth was thick, savoury and full of wonderful flavours. It was very filling even if we just ate it as is without rice or noodles. The kelp noodles have a very crunchy texture which is interesting, but you don’t need to plan a full portion per person. They are just a nice add-on I find.

The TVP really is great in this recipe as it takes on all the broth flavours and really gives the chewy texture of meat.

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It was a lot of fun to eat this with my family this week-end. I had a great time preparing the vegetables with my mom, and the men enjoyed the richness of the broth… which was consumed entirely!

This is truly a must try, so let me know how it turns out!

Christmas series: Appetizer kale chips

Another appetizer recipe!

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These are very easy to make, tasty and ready to be customized. If your guests are a little bit reluctant to try these kale chips as an appetizer, why not guide them into discovery by using them as garnish? (It’s less work for you too!)

This is a very simple, mild, yet rich seasoning for our lovely kale. Once done, they have a lovely crunch, and a seaweed reminiscent taste. In fact, I would use those in a miso soup instead on the nori sheet anytime.

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If you are planning on using them as chips, use about a bunch (7 to 9 stalks) of kale per person. Kale shrinks a lot when it is dehydrated so keep this in mind when cutting it into bite size pieces.

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Here is what you need per person:

  • a bunch of kale, washed and dried (the less water on the leaves, the less time it will take to make)
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin seed oil
  • 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste ( I used Herbamare salt)
  • spices to taste

Here is what you do:

  1. With clean fingers, separate the kale leaves from the stems and cut each leave into bite size portions. I usually make 2 pieces out of each side of the leave, so around 4 or 5 chips per stalk. This might seem big, but they will shrink a lot. Discard the stems (you can keep them for your smoothies or veggie stock!).
  2. Place all your leaves into a big salad bowl and pour on the oils and seasonings.
  3. Massage gently until the leaves are tender and well coated with the seasonings.
  4. Place the leaves on a lined cookie sheet or on your dehydrator tray being careful that they don’t touch each other.
  5. Place in your oven set on the lowest temperature, or in your dehydrator at 52C or 125F.
  6. The chips are ready when crispy. In my dehydrator this takes about 2 hours. If you are using your oven, I would suggest checking the chips every 15 minutes until they are done. You can also leave the oven door slightly open to help air circulation.

As you can see, there is nothing complicated in making kale chips, so please don’t buy a 6$ bag of them when they could cost you a fraction of this!

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The thing I love most about these is that you can keep the recipe simple like this one, or make it fancy and exotic by adding different spices or herbs: mix in coriander leaves and lime juice for a refreshing flavour, curry powder and sriracha for a little kick or avocado dressing for a creamier feel. The possibilities are endless!

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And if you are looking for a dehydrator, I bought an Excalibur a few years ago, and it’s perfect! If you are in Canada, you can check out Upaya Naturals: that’s where I got mine, and the shipping was super quick. Let me know if you try these out and what flavours you have captured!

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Christmas series: Appetizer bites!

If you are hosting a Christmas party you should try these out! They take no time to prepare, they are tasty, you can personalize them and they are very cute!

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If you are new to cashew “cheeses” or spreads, this is a great way to start. The only thing you really need for this is a strong food processor. The machine is going to transform nuts into a thick and creamy spread. After you have the basis, you can pretty much add and garnish with whatever spice or herb you like.

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Here is what you’ll need for 30 appetizers:

  • 1 cup of raw cashew nuts
  • 1/4 cup of hemp seeds hearts
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • the juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 30 crackers (I used Mary’s Original Organic Crackers)
  • herbs and vegetables/fruits to garnish

Here is what you do:

  1. Place everything except the water in the food processor and blend.
  2. Add the water slowly while mixing to help everything get processed. Be careful not to put too much water. If you realize this is the case, just add a little bit more nuts or hemp seeds.
  3. Let the machine work until you have a creamy  and thick mixture. Mine took about 5 minutes.
  4. Use a piping bag with a star tip or a zip-lock bag to spread an even amount on each cracker. You could also use a spoon.
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs, cherry tomato slices or avocado slices.

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Now, this is the basic recipe to which you can add coriander seeds, curry powder, fresh basil leaves, cilantro or chives. The possibilities are quite endless so experiment away!

I garnished mine with some avocado slices to balance out the acidity of the lemon juice, but I think cherry tomato slices would also look great.

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They usually tell you to soak the cashew nuts for this type of recipe, but I find that I don’t need to when using raw nuts. However, if your food processor is older, you might want to soak the cashews for at least one hour before making this.

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Let me know if you try this out and what your favourite vegan cheese recipe is! Also chec. out La végé d’à côté for a fancy Christmas salad recipe!

Christmas Menu: The Soup

We have now arrived to the most exiting part of the Christmas series: The food!

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As a mixed child with one fork in French culture and one chopstick in Vietnamese culture, I can’t say that my family has any particular “Christmas” foods. Every year we eat delicious food depending on our inspiration all together with no specific dish reserved for Christmas.

This is why I bring you a slightly nontraditional Christmas menu. You won’t find any fake turkey or meatballs. You will, however, find delicious, spicy, and fun to share food.

As a start, let me present you the Indian style Kabocha soup. This is a perfect winter soup as the squash is in season, and the spices will warm you up. This is quite simple to make, but will impress your guests with the smoothest texture and most exciting flavours around.

Kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin is very nutty and smooth which makes it perfect for soups. If you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest you run to your local Asian market as it is perfect not only for savory but also sweet recipes.

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Here is what you need:

  • 1 Kabocha squash, seeds removed
  • 2 zucchini squashes
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, cut in half
  • 1 tbs of curry powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs of marmite (the British seasoning) or one cube of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt to taste

Here is what you do:

  1. Cut all the vegetables in cubes. If you want your soup to be very orange and extremely smooth, peel them. I kept the skins of mine on because I like the extra nutrients they brings.
  2. In a large cauldron, put all your vegetables, ginger and garlic, and cover them with water. I added around 2.5 liters.
  3. Cover and let come to a boil on maximum heat. Then, bring down the heat to a medium, and let simmer uncovered until the vegetables are easily poked through with a fork.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the spices, marmite and salt. Mix well and adjust to your taste. It is a good idea to mix the marmite or vegetable stock cube in a separate bowl with a few spoonfuls of the cooking water before adding it to the soup. This will ensure that everything is well mixed in.
  5. Mix with a hand mixer until all the vegetables are smooth.
  6. Serve with toasted bread and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

This is extremely simple to make and can do its own thing while you are tending more complicated dishes. The spices really make this soup special, and the ginger makes it perfect for winter.

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Let me know if you try it out and what you thought of it! Come back too for the rest of my Christmas menu.

 

Christmas Series: Easiest chocolates!

A few days ago I stumbled upon these amazing little things and just fell in love with the idea. I really wanted to try them out, and so I went out to buy organic oranges. While in the store, I also picked up some pears, apples and fresh mint leaves.

Why stop at oranges?

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The process is super easy; the result, impressive; and the taste, to die-for! These chocolates would also make an amazing gift if you were to arrange them in a pretty box.

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Here is what you need for an assorted box of chocolates:

  • 4 organic oranges
  • 2 pears
  • 4 stalks of mint leaves
  • 150 grams of dark vegan chocolate chips

Here is what you need to do:

  • Clean and dry all your fruits and herbs. It is really important that the mint leaves are dry if you want the chocolate to stick to them.
  • Cut the oranges into 5mm thick slices. Align them on your dehydrator tray.
  • Cut the pear as thin as possible and put them on your dehydrator tray as well.
  • Let the dehydrator work at 75F for 12 hours, or overnight. If you do not have a dehydrator, you can place the fruit on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and let them dry in your oven set at the lowest temperature. Check on them often as they might dry out to much depending on your oven.
  • Once the fruit is dry, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  • Dip the fruits and fresh herbs in the chocolate using a fork and your cleaned fingers and place on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Let set in the fridge overnight (the hardest part of the recipe).

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These are extremely easy, and so yummy! The orange slices have to be my favourites. They are quite similar to orangettes chocolates. However, because the slices are thick, there is still some juice left that explodes in your mouth. You really must try them out!

The pear slices are a little bit more chewy and have a milder flavour that is still quite nice. On their side, the mint leaves are a great alternative for After Eight lovers. The mint flavour is very refreshing, without being overly sweet.

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Finally, you might get a little bit chocolate crazy and try to dip all the fruits that you have lying around. Experiment away, but I don’t recommend cranberries as these are really great for pictures, but not so much for eating: way too sour!

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Anyways, let me know what you end up trying out! Check out the original post behind this idea, and also La végé d’à côté for some chocolate recommendations. And if you are looking for a dehydrator, I bought an Excalibur a few years ago, and it’s perfect! If you are in Canada, you can check out Upaya Naturals: that’s where I got mine, and the shipping was super quick.

 

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Christmas Series: Two Really Easy Vegan Truffles Bases

Every Christmas, my French grandmother sends us a box of homemade chocolate truffles. These truffles are chocolaty, and sugar crusted; they melt in your mouth and just beg to be eaten.

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I really wanted to recreate my own vegan version of these delicious truffles and here is what I came up with. I actually made two versions of a “truffle-base” that I then flavoured with different nuts, fruits and spices. You can really personalize the truffles with whatever you prefer.

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This would also make a great gift if you were to put these little chocolate treasures in a tin box.

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Version one: Almond base

Here is what you’ll need for a dozen truffles:

  • 1 cup of pitted dates
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs of coconut oil (this really helps making the mix a little less sticky for when you roll them up)
  • 1 tbs of maple syrup

Here is what you have to do:

  1.  Soak the dates in lukewarm water. If you store the dates outside of the fridge, you’ll only need to soak them while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. If you store them in your fridge, soak them for 20 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, put all the other ingredients and process until you have a very fine, slightly sticky powder. This took about 5 minutes. If your food processor is a little old, process for a few seconds and give the machine a break before restarting again.
  3. Drain the dates and press them to take out the excess water. Add them in the food processor.
  4. Process until you have a chocolate ball rolling around your food processor, or until the dates are all mixed in.

Version two: Peanut butter base

Here is what you need for a dozen of truffles :

  • 1 cup of pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter (I use crunchy, but use the kind you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Here is what you do:

  1. Soak the dates in water.
  2. Drain the dates after 10 minutes of soaking, but this time don’t press them.
  3. Add them and the rest of the ingredients in the food processors.
  4. Process until you have a big ball of chocolate rolling around your processor.
  5. Take about a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it. Make sure you slightly wet your hands because this is sticky!

Then, all you have to do is roll about a teaspoon of the base and add some flavour. Here is what I use for these:

  • sesame seeds
  • shredded coconut
  • fresh cranberries
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • earl grey tea (this is really great!)
  • cayenne pepper
  • sriracha

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It’s really fun to set up all your ingredients, and mix and match flavours. And yes, one of these truffles has sriracha in it. Surprise! Of course you can adapt these to match your taste.

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Let me know what you think of these little delicious truffles. They’re not my grandma’s recipe, but they are still pretty amazing! Keep them in the fridge in an air-tight container, and they will last for about 2 weeks… if you can stop yourself from eating them all at once!

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Christmas series: Fun, eco-friendly wrapings

If you celebrate Christmas with presents, you can fall into two categories: you are a wrapping paper serial killer who bursts open the gifts with no thoughts going to the wrapper, or you are a delicate being who uses scissors or a knife to open your gifts.

I have to say, I love keeping Christmas wraps to use in crafts, so I fall in the second category. My boyfriend? He’s a wrapping paper maniac: no paper shall resist!

Anyways, even though I like keeping wrapping paper, there comes a point where you have enough for a life time. What to do when you reach this point? Well, you try to find other ways to wrap your presents in the hope that others will do the same.

Not only are these ideas extremely simple, they are creative, and offer an extra gift to your friend or family member!

The first thing you want to check out when deciding to ban wrapping paper from your life is the Japanese art of Furoshiki. Using squares of fabric, this technique enables your to wrap any object in an elegant and fun way. Moreover, most of these are made to carry the actual object around: no gift bags necessary! There are plenty of examples on Youtube: how to wrap rectangular gifts, bottles, and even round objects. I improvised a little bit on this theme using scarves, but you could use tea towels or kitchen linens too. This way, not only do your friends get the gift, they also get a scarf or towel they’ll be able to use!

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Funny wrapping for a book!

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Another thing that you can do is customize cotton bags according to the gift you are giving. A few months ago, a colleague gave me the cutest knitting bag ever. You can get inspired online and draw away, or be poetic and write down your favourite quotes or poems. All you need are cotton bags, a fabric pen, both of which you can find at your local craft store, and a witty imagination. Not only does this double up as gift wrap and gift bag, your friend will be able to reuse the bag again and gain!

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How witty is that knitting bag?

Finally, instead of buying bows and other throwable decoration, why not go for fairy lights? These really bring a magical touch to any wrapping, and can be reused by your family members to make a fairy light votive using a simple mason jar. Plus, no need to worry as these are LED lights and so do not warm up.

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With fairy lights, everything gets whimsical!

I really hope these few pointers give you ideas as to how to wrap you Christmas gifts in a fun, original and Eco-friendly way. Let me know what you think and how you are planning to wrap your presents this year!

Christmas series: Gifts for your vegan friend

It can be tricky to give gifts for a new vegan friend. Of course the important thing to remember is that this person is a friend, so you know what they like. However, here are a few ideas to help your friend (or yourself really!) in their vegan journey, or just in their regular life. These products are great for vegans, but also for general human beings.

For the foodies in your life:

  1. Immersion blender: These babies are amazing! Not only are they small and perfect for tiny little kitchen, they are also so versatile that you really get great bang for your buck. You can make hummus, sauces, creamy soups, and even nice cream. And, for all that magic in the kitchen, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Great, great, great!
  2. Spiralizer: After trying little pencil sharpener-like devices, I bought a real spiralizer with different blades and a little handle and all. It is great! It really brings variety and fun to the kitchen. I love making zoodles, carrot noodles (cadles? noodlot? … I’ll stick to carrot noodles), apple spirals, potato spirals, and any-fruit-or-vegetable noodles. Seriously, this is amazing!
  3. Ginger gratter: Okay, this might sound silly, and not Christmas-present-worthy, but this is a great accessory to have in the kitchen as it really helps to have perfect ginger puree and garlic paste. Perfect for sauces, stir-fries, and soups.
  4. Iron-fish: This is great gift as it is not only a gift for your friend but also for a Cambodian family. Plus, this is an intriguing and useful gift… and it is so cute!
  5. Springform pans: Okay, these are really not funky Christmas presents, but if you ever tried any kind of vegan, gluten-free pie or cake, you know that these little things are amazingly practical. To make it more special, why not pair them up with a book on vegan deserts? I really like Rawsome Vegan Baking.

For the pampering enthusiast:

  1. Matt & Nat: These are incredible, completely vegan, and stylish handbags, wallets, backpacks, totes, and overnight bags. These will please both women and men as they offer great  bags and accessories for everyone. Be ready to regroup for these because they can be a little bit expensive.
  2. Cruelty-free beauty and self care products: There are a ton of alternatives as to beauty products. Of course Lush is a great option, but take a stroll to your local health-food store to find really amazing alternatives. This is how I found Boho Cosmetics nail polishes. Why not gather a few items and make a cute basket out of it? And of course, the best way to make sure that the products you are buying are cruelty-free, is to make your own products. There are a ton of recipes online, so explore away! And for your supplies, if you are in Montreal, or Canada, this shop is amazing.
  3. Funny vegan t-shirts: These are cute and witty, and you can find local alternatives. Again, Montrealers check out Quinoa apparel. Etsy is also a great place to start looking for fun t-shirts.

So I hope these ideas will help you find cute and fun ideas for your vegan friends, or to give to any of your friends really! Remember to check out La végé d’à côté for more ideas!