Christmas in October?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or, well, sort of. I saw the most wonderful, heartwarming thing at the grocery store this weekend – SEASONAL TEAS. My favorite [no-frills, employee-owned] grocery store, Woodman’s, had a brand new display of seasonal teas by Celestial Seasonings and Stash. I nearly had a teagasm right there in the store! I’m familiar with Celestial Seasonings’ offerings, but I’d never seen Stash’s holiday-inspired teas. My Christmas-season-loving heart thrilled inside of me when I saw tantalizing flavors like Christmas Eve (herbal mint blend) Christmas Morning (black tea blend), White Christmas (white tea, peppermint, and a hint of ginger), Holiday Chai (black tea with hints of gingerbread and rum), and organic (!) Merry Mint (green tea, spearmint, and peppermint). Stash also has gorgeous packaging – what can I say; I’m shallow! I managed to restrain myself, though:

Teas on the floor. Class-ay.

Unfortunately I didn’t realize that White Christmas was a mint tea, so I accidentally purchased two minty varieties. Guess I’ll have to go back for more! Clearly tea is one of my major weaknesses, but for $2.00 a box, I’m not too concerned about breaking the bank.

All of these Christmas flavors got me thinkin’ about other foods I associate with my favorite holiday. My family has a tradition of enjoying cinnamon buns and grapefruit on Christmas morning, and as I thought about holidays of yore, I got a strong craving for sweet, cinnamon-y goodness. Last year Mom made VeganYumYum’s incredibly decadent cinnamon buns, and they were gorgeous and tummyache-inducingly rich. Throwback photo time!

Oof.

I feel full just looking at them! I didn’t want to make anything that rich during this go-round, so I turned to Happy Herbivore for a healthier alternative. I ended up making Lindsay’s whole-wheat, fat-free cinnamon buns, and despite an emergency grocery run necessitated by moldy applesauce, they came together quickly and with very little fuss.

Tea&bun.

And they taste fantastic, too! Soft and chewy on the inside, only the outer rings of my buns (heh heh) were at all crusty. The cinnamon filling is absolutely perfect, and it only contains brown sugar, applesauce, and cinnamon. Genius! I’ve been savoring these babies for the past few days, and they’ve totally sated my cinnamon craving. Once they’re gone, I’ll lay off the buns so that I’ll properly appreciate our traditional breakfast come December 25th.

Do you have any holiday traditions? Do you get excited about winter holidays? Any favorite seasonal teas?

Three Reasons Why My Family is Wonderful (or, a Christmas Retrospective)

1. Stocking Stuffers

Our family Christmas traditions are simple yet solid. Ever since I can remember, we three kids have received a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve before reading The Night Before Christmas together and then hopping off to bed so SantaMom&Dad can work their magic. In the morning, we kids wake up and peer eagerly at the beautifully arranged presents around the tree before waking up Mom and Dad. Then we troop into the living room to open our stockings – no presents! – before eating breakfast. Mom’s usually in charge of filling the stockings, and this year the stocking stuffers she chose for me were incredibly thoughtful. Check out some of the swag.

 

Stocking stuff(ers).

 

Knowing that my vegan lifestyle is becoming more all-encompassing and extends beyond my dietary choices, Mom found a cruelty-free, vegan lip balm for me, along with organic, vegan body lotion, and Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I was so very pleased to discover these treasures in my stocking! The Candy Cane lip balm has a lovely, subtle scent, and the lotion’s Vanilla Chai scent smells just like warm cinnamon buns. Speaking of which…

2. Cinnamon Buns

The next part of our family tradition is the most delicious – breakfast. We break our fast on Christmas morning with half a grapefruit each, followed by delicious, sticky, cinnamon buns. In the past, we’ve gotten them from local bakeries, but this year Mom and Dad knew that I wouldn’t eat non-vegan cinnamon buns, so they sacrificed the safety of tradition in favor of experimenting and making some that I would definitely eat. Because I didn’t get home until 10:30 on Christmas Eve (and I almost didn’t make it at all!), I couldn’t volunteer my services and Mom was in charge of the buns. At my recommendation, she tried out this utterly decadent recipe from VeganYumYum. Although Mom is mostly low-fat vegan, we all decided that for this one day, we would indulge and enjoy ourselves. And, oh, how we enjoyed these beauties.

 

Sticky, sweet, delights.

 

These cinnamon buns surpassed all our expectations. They not only tasted as good as the bakery buns of yore, but even better. They were almost too rich for me – I could only finish a half in one sitting, and had to save the rest for a post-present-unwrapping pick-me-up! Mom did an amazing job, especially since it was her first time making anything yeasted. So thoughtful.

3. Sweet Surprises

Another part of our food tradition involves a huge platter o’ cookies and fudge, compliments of my Aunt Nancy. She’s an incredible baker, and she devotes the month of December to making and freezing dozens – if not hundreds – of Christmas cookies. She shares them with friends and family, and no Christmas is complete without a platter or two of her tantalizing treats. Aunt Nancy even provides a special nut-free plate for my sister, to accommodate her allergies.

Unfortunately, none of my aunt’s cookies are vegan, and although she mentioned the possibility of trying some new recipes next year, I found myself unable to eat anything from her platter. Just looking at the macaroons and candied walnuts and mini magic bars made me a little bit sad that I couldn’t indulge, but then I was presented with this.

 

Sweet surprises from my sissy.

 

My lovely, wonderful, sister made me a platter of adorably decorated vegan sugar cookies! She knew I wouldn’t be able to eat any of my aunt’s, and took matters into her own hands. I don’t know what recipe she used (she said it called for silken tofu), but I thought they were perfectly yummy. I grabbed one every time I saw the rest of my family cutting a slice of cheesecake or chomping on some fudge, and they made my day so much brighter. Next year, I’ll be home for a few days before Christmas, and I’m looking forward to spending that time baking dozens and dozens of vegan cookies with Rhiannon.

Really, could I ask for a more gracious and accommodating family?! They are so thoughtful and wonderful. Other Christmas highlights included receiving my own Settlers of Catan game and expansion (any other Catan fanatics out there?!), the Babycakes cookbook, and lots of awesome kitchenware. But the best part of all was spending time with everyone, even if it was only for three days. I’m counting down ’til I can take another trip home and spend a little more time with my lovely family.