Have your Christmas wreath and eat it too

With Pearyn just five months shy of turning four, she’s ridiculously into doing any and every thing mommy and daddy are doing.

It doesn’t matter if we’re shoveling the driveway, changing her brother’s diaper or scrubbing the kitchen floor with a toothbrush (we totally don’t do that), she absolutely has to be involved.

Since her brain is like a little sponge and she absorbs everything she’s learning right now, we’ve decided to start including her in as much as we can if we can make it a learning experience. So for the last month while we packed boxes and put together new furniture, she’s been helping her daddy tighten screws, measure lengths and make sure pictures are level.

And because we’re in the throes of Christmas and the super awesome baked goods it brings along with it, she’s been my little sous chef when it comes to all things breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Luckily for her we’re elbow deep in dough, sugar and chocolate.

Today I decided to take something easy on. I wanted a dessert that would be simple to veganize, easy for Pearyn to contribute to and super Christmasy (yep, that’s a word, just made it up).

Enter the cornflake, mashmallowey Christmas wreath. If you’ve had a rice crispy treat, chances are you’ve experienced one of these little circles of joy. They’re cute and green and you use little cinnamon candies to add some red accents to the wreaths.

These were a hit with Pear Bear, they were quick to make, the vegan marshmallows worked perfectly in place and after sitting for about a half hour they were totally sticky-fied.

Vegan Christmas wreaths of Heaven
(Makes 28 two-inch wreaths)
Five cups cornflake cereal
1 bag vegan marshmallows (I use Dandies, they’re available at our health food store, the big ones worked fine!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips (just for some flavor)
4-5 drops green food coloring (we buy a locally made brand at the health food store)
1/3 cup vegan butter (we use Earth Balance!)
Optional: Red, vegan cinnamon-flavored candies

In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the marshmallows (I cut them into fourths with kitchen sheers to make sure they’d melt easily), stirring until they melt into a buttery, creamy fluff.

Add food coloring and vanilla extract. When it’s all smooth, stir in the cornflakes. Add the vegan white chocolate chips in the last minute and stir together.

Spread a piece of parchment paper out on a flat surface and using a spoon or just your hands (keep a bowl of water nearby or you’ll get sticky!), make two-inch circles. Top with red, vegan candies. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes before taste testing. Keep them in an air-tight container for the next three days!

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Vegan stuffed peppers for dummies (in casserole form)

Have you ever made stuffed peppers?

They’re amazing, aren’t they? While I’ve never followed a «strict» stuffed pepper recipe, I’ve always stuck to the basic components of it: peppers (tops off, ribbed and seeds removed), some sort of ground «meat,» some form of liquid tomato, onions and rice.

And while they’re always delicious (regardless of what ingredients I end up tossing together), the peppers themselves are kind of drama queens. It’s not like you just cut the tops off and throw some stuff in them, oh no, you’ve got to take things out, put things in, cook them just the right amount of time so they’re done but not mushy.

This past week I was at the grocery store picking out some carrots and I started drooling over the peppers. What can I say, sometimes I get weird hankerings. I contemplated making stuffed peppers for about three seconds before I decided they were way too much work, especially if it was just going to be myself, my husband and our two kids eating them. There’s no need to impress them with the presentation.

And then I was inspired by a dumbed down cabbage roll recipe I did a few years back and decided it was time to make this happen. This takes hardly any effort at all (if you really want to skimp on time just grab some frozen diced up veggies and you’ll really be set) but it tastes JUST like the tedious stuffed peppers you used to make.

You’re welcome.

Vegan stuffed pepper casserole
(serves 8)
3 medium green peppers, diced (you can do 4 if you really like peppers, or use red, yellow or orange if you want to get really crazy!)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cups cooked lentils (just follow your lentil instructions)
3 tomatoes, diced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp basil
2 TBS minced garlic
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup vegan cheese (optional, we used Daiya Mozz because we had that on hand)

Cook your lentils and brown rice. (Just follow the instructions on their packaging). Preheat your oven to 385 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together your cooked lentils, brown rice, black pepper, salt, thyme, basil and garlic. Add vegan Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce. Stir in diced onion, peppers and tomatoes. In a greased, large casserole dish (9X12 or whatever), pour stuffed pepper mixture. Top with vegan cheese if desired. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese starts to melt and brown a little.

Serve with your favorite salad, veggie or garlic bread! Contemplate never stuffing a pepper again!

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