BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Keep Calm and Shop On

The array of online retailers available for 24-hour, worldwide, no holds barred means all of your shopping whims can become downright dizzying after just a few cursory searches. Such a wealth of options should be a boon to the average consumer, seeking the best deals and widest selection, but the incessant promotions seem to pull in all directions at once. Overwhelmed rather than empowered, I find myself simply closing my browser and walking away more often than not, too frazzled to make a purchase for even the simplest of needs.

Seeking to filter out the extra noise, I’ve found true solace in the less celebrated, smaller virtual retailers, offering only items that meet a higher standard for quality. That means only vegan products can make the cut, to say nothing of the longevity, versatility, and visual appeal of the items themselves. She Is Worth It is a rising star in this field. If you haven’t yet surfed over to this shining outpost of cruelty-free goods, get ready to watch your wish list grow.

Offering products that are kind to the animals and your wallet, She Is Worth It features just three focused categories of top notch products: Cosmetics, bags, and sunglasses. For the indecisive or merely undecided, this selection makes shopping for a loved one with discerning tastes easier than ever, since you can’t go wrong with any of the options.

Don’t forget to treat yourself while you’re there! As my travels demand a wider variety of bags, I’ve indulged myself in some more stylish carry ons, which is why I was irresistibly drawn to the gorgeous quilted faux-leather backpack above. A rotating selection of items means that this particular option is no longer available, but even more dazzling purses, clutches, and handbags have been added to take its place.

As a special holiday treat to readers, She Is Worth It and I have joined forces to offer a mini shopping spree to one lucky patron. The winner can select either one beauty product or pair of sunglasses, just for giving this new online retailer a shot. Please visit the GIVEAWAY FORM HERE to log your entry, and don’t forget to start shopping now! The holidays aren’t too far away, after all…


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Smooth-Talker (With a Matcha Giveaway!)

Making the leap from blender to bowl, smoothies are no longer strictly liquid nourishment. Morning, noon, or night, it’s time to put away the straws and break out the spoons. Acai bowls paved the way for this natural evolution, but smoothie bowls are entirely unique creations, free from the constraints of the typical toppings or construction. Browse through instagram for a few seconds, and you’ll see a full spectrum of colors, layers, textures, and sometimes even actual glitter fill your screen. These run the gamut from austere to more indulgent than chocolate custard, so as with most other edible art forms, the real struggle is finding a happy balance between the two.

For me, that means going green, but not in the predictable way. Kale, spinach, and collards alike are mainstays in my meals, but not in my blender. The green smoothie movement is one that i could never fully embrace, simply because I couldn’t rationalize adding ingredients that didn’t contribute positive flavors to the mix, but rather, unfavorable tastes that would need to be covered up or otherwise compensated for. Green is great, but when it comes to smoothies, matcha is always my favorite source.

Enthusiasts will agree that there’s no wrong way to enjoy this verdant powdered tea leaf, but many are missing out on matcha’s full flavor potential. Did you know that there are numerous different grades of the emerald superfood, which vary greatly in flavor and potency? Separated into three distinct categories, it may be difficult to suss out when it’s best to employ ceremonial matcha, culinary matcha, or any of the shades of green in between.

Contrary to my first naive assumption, it turns out that culinary matcha is not actually of lower quality, and in fact contributes a stronger tea flavor to baked goods, as it’s better suited to withstand the heat of the oven. Ceremonial grades possess greater nuances, best to sip, savor, and carefully contemplate. Each one tells it’s own story, so carefully calibrated through every step of processing, that no two batches will taste precisely the same.

If you’ve never experienced the glorious green joy that comes with the full spectrum of matcha, you’re in luck. Matchaworks offers three wholly unique options to keep you steeped in good taste from morning to night- Or whenever the caffeine wears off. Picking between the trio might seem like an overwhelming decision to make, but today, you may not have to. Matchaworks has generously offered to send one lucky reader a bundle of all their tasteful teas: Japanese ceremonial grade, ceremonial grade, and culinary grade.

You must be a resident of the US to be eligible for this gift, and don’t forget to get social! Interact with Matchaworks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and then hop on over to the OFFICIAL GIVEAWAY PAGE to make your entry count.

No matter how your brew or blend it up, green is always good when it means matcha!


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Keep Your Cool

There are certain world records that no one wants to break. No one would be proud to claim the title of World’s Most Accident-Prone Person, or boast of sporting the World’s Longest Nose Hairs, for example. Unfortunately, the world itself has been officially awarded the unfortunate record of World’s Warmest Year, as of 2015, and we’re right on track to continue that winning streak for 2016.

Some of us have it worse than others. Living in the sheltered weather bubble that is the bay area, protected by a perpetual blanket of fog, it’s hard to imagine the crushing heatwave smothering the east coast right now. I don’t say that to brag- It’s with both awe and sympathy. I genuinely don’t know how you folks manage to survive yet another round of unprecedented heat and humidity.

No doubt, ice cream must help. It’s the only real relief that I would fully endorse on any day, and in any climate, for that matter. Even though temperatures around here rarely break the 80-degree mark, I’ve fully indulged in more than my fair share of frozen desserts this summer, thanks in large part to So Delicious. Their soothing cashew- and coconut-based treats are guaranteed to take the sting out of the most brutal days of summer sun. Short of churning your own, quite frankly, there are no better nor more diverse mainstream brands out there.

Although it’s tempting to hoard all of this frozen goodness for myself, I know there are many hungry ice cream-lovers out there suffering far more than I am this season. That’s why I want to share the wealth, and offer a FREE So Delicious product to two lucky readers! Anything your heart desires is up for grabs, but of course, I can’t recommend the ice cream highly enough. To enter, head on over to the giveaway page here, and don’t forget to leave a comment about your favorite ice cream flavor. You have until August 10th to enter, so get to it! I wouldn’t want anyone to sweat through the whole summer without a bite of cold comfort.


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Read My Lips (Lippy Girl GIVEAWAY!)

Makeup, hair, wardrobe, and modeling by Melisser Eliott.

Makeup is far from my field of expertise. Though fascinated by it from an early age, that intrigue never translated into successful application, and my skills remain limited to the basics. Luckily, lipstick is one cosmetic option that even I can handle, which is why finding brands that are ethical and non-toxic has been imperative. Master makeup artist Melisser Elliot gets all the credit for hooking me up with Lippy Girl, and flaunting their “Son of a Brick” Vegocentric Organic Vegan Lipstick so stunningly in the above photo shoot.

Without resorting to carmine and beeswax, add a bold splash of color to your own ensemble with shades to match any outfit, no matter how avant-garde or conventional. In case you’re not feeling quite so daring, rest assured that many shades are quite sheer with buildable coverage. Which lipstick color would you choose from the vibrant, variegated options? Let me know in a comment and you could win it, along with a tube of Extra Virgin Lip Gloss! Don’t forget to hop over and log your submission on the official giveaway form, and find more ways to rack up entries for a better chance to win big. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada, and will run until Thursday, May 14th. Good luck!


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Uncommon Excellence

‘Tis the season of giving, although in this modern age it may be more accurate to say that it’s the season of shopping. Judging by the influx of gift guides already lining the pages of blogs both big and small, I’d have to assume that everyone already has more ideas for their holiday handouts than they know what to do with. If you’re anything like me though, these lists serve not to inspire better offerings to share with loved ones, but to capture my own desires. No matter if I’m looking at suggestions geared towards photographers or lumberjacks, I promise you I’ll find at least one purchase to add to my personal wish list, coming up empty handed yet again for my family and friends. Am I just easy to please, or has it become more difficult to shop for others, with all of their particular preferences? Nothing ever seems like just the right kind of gift, balancing gracefully between the grey areas of useless junk and utilitarian items for work. How can I inject a bit of whimsy into the everyday, and where on earth can I find such a rarity?

The internet holds the key to solving this conundrum, of course. Online shopping has become an increasingly popular pursuit, if not a genuine sport at this point. Questions of quality still remain, and sketchy merchants can ruin the most thoughtfully planned out gifting procedure, so the real question isn’t “what should I buy” for the holidays, but “where should I buy from?” Well, allow me to introduce one of the most fun stores on the web: Uncommon Goods. Perhaps you’ve heard of it before, and rightly so. They’ve been in the biz for over 15 years and feature some of the most unique, charming offerings I’ve seen all in one place. They truly live up to their title, working with small artists to furnish their catalog with handmade, one-of-a-kind items along with fun gadgets and toys that you may not have seen before. They too have many gift suggestions built in for the well-meaning but clueless shopper, although of course I was immediately drawn to the dishware section instead.

Given a generous stipend to test out their services and report back on the results, I certainly did take away an incredible haul. Shipping out with speeds that rival the gold standard set by Amazon, I’d wager to say that their packing is even more secure. Despite the weight and fragility of my items, not a single piece was dinged, scratched, or anything less than ideal. So, what presents did I give myself for the holidays this year? Primarily, lots of rocks.

Stone slabs in the form of cheeseboards, to be more precise. The granite cheese board with spreader was my real trophy gift, a luxurious hunk of glossy granite complete with a charming wooden knife. The dark coloring was in sharp contrast to the photo featured online, but that variability only added to the appeal. Even if you’re ordering for yourself, you may be in for a happy surprise!

Another excellent pick for the host or hostess with everything would be the slate cheese board with soapstone chalk (chalk not pictured.) That rich burgundy stone is absolutely stunning, and such an unusual shade to find in the typically drab category of grey slate serving pieces. This is one versatile plate that will no doubt make many more appearances in my photos for years to come. Best of all, it provides a spacious 10×16-inches for all of your appetizer needs, making it a genuinely excellent value, especially compared to what you might find in comparable houseware boutiques.

Moving deeper into the pages of dishes and utensils, the udon noodle bowls captivated me at first sight. Beautifully crafted and a true pleasure to use, this is one of the rare pieces that enjoys a place both in my prop closet and on the dinner table. It’s a perfect example of form and function working together, creating a vessel that holds an ideal amount of noodle-y goodness with an ergonomic handle and built-in chopstick rest. My only regret is not purchasing one in every color.

Finally, as a fun little toy to play around with in the kitchen, my final choice is one that my loved ones will actually benefit from as well. Churning out dozens of holiday cookies for annual swaps and parties alike, mine are guaranteed to stand out from the pack this year thanks to my brand new customizable cookie stamp. Infinitely adaptable to all holidays an occasions, the edible messages that it creates are sure to impress- Yes, pun intended. My fool-proof gingerbread cut-out cookies have never looked better, and there’s certainly no mistaking who made these sweets, even amongst a mountain of homemade holiday desserts.

Rather than give you more lists to look up or my own favorite holiday selections, I just want to give you this entire website for inspiration. Better yet, I want to give you a bit of holiday cheer in the form of a $50 gift certificate to spend however you please in this wonderland of shopping. To enter, hop on over to Uncommon Goods and browse about. Tell me what you would order, and who you’re ordering for (I’ll admit, I’m just nosy and want to know!) Make sure you include your name and email in the appropriate boxes and log your response before midnight EST on December 15th. Sorry to my international friends, but you must be a resident of the US to enter.

Treat yourself, spoil your friends, indulge however you want just as long as you enjoy!

UPDATE: The entry period has ended and the good old random number generator has smiled upon one lucky reader. That person happens to be the owner of comment #24…

Panya! You’ve won the giveaway and will be hearing from the folks at Uncommon Goods shortly. For everyone else, don’t despair; the next opportunity to take home a fun or tasty prize package is never too far away, so stay tuned.

This post and giveaway was made possible by the kind folks at Uncommon Goods. All opinions, photos, and recipes are completely my own.


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Have a Bigger Slice of the Pie

Gingerly slicing through the packing tape and lifting each flap of the cardboard carton, one at a time, unboxing my very first copies of Easy as Vegan Pie was, both predictably and surprisingly, unreal. Entering the lineup as my fourth cookbook, the creative process had become second nature, from dreaming and scheming to writing down the results. It was all the same routine, albeit more challenging subject matter than ever before, producing the luscious glossy pages I had been imagining for well over a year, through all of the flops and resounding successes alike. Exactly as I expected, the content felt as familiar as the back of my hand, having poured over the tiny details for hours on end to reach this point.

But holding the hardcover in my hands, flipping past photos and recipes that had each taken on their own unique personalities with stories to share, the sensation is indescribable. It’s hard to believe that this really came from my own hands, while it feels close enough to be an actual piece of me, out in bookstores everywhere. I couldn’t be more proud to share my heart, and my pies, abroad.

This isn’t about me though- I know you’re here for some sweet and savory satisfaction! Yes, it’s true, there are indeed savory recipes thrown into the mix, for the first time in any of my personal publications. A book for everyone, the range of flavors covers all tastes, and includes many gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options throughout. The “look inside” feature on Amazon.com has yet to go live, so in the meantime, allow me to tempt you with a taste of the recipes within:

Custard, Cream, and Pudding Pies

Adzuki Bean Pie
Banana Tapioca Pudding Pie
Buckeye Pie
Cannoli Pie
Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie
Cookies ‘n Creme Fried Pies
Double Chocolate Truffle Tart
Figgy Pudding Pie
Greek Silk Pie
Kiwi Coconut Pie
Lemon Chia Seed Meringue Pie
Mud Pie
New York Cheesecake Pie
Nutterscotch Pie
Pistachio Pudding Pie
Raspberry Red Velvet Pie
Rock ‘n Roll Elvis Pie
Skinny Mint Tart
Speculoos Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée Tartlettes
Watermelon Chiffon Pie
Yogurt Parfait Tartlettes

Frozen Pies

Acai Bowl Pies
Blood Orange Creamsicle Pie
Hula Pie
Kahlua Pie
Malted Strawberry Milkshake Pie
Mojito Pie
Persimmon Chiffon Pie
Raw Eggnog Pie
Root Beer Float Pie
Spumoni Pie
Winter Wonderland Peppermint Pie
Nut Pies
Baklava Pie
Caramel Macadamia Crumb Tart
Chestnut Crunch Pie
Gingerbread Walnut Pie
Hazelnut Tassies
Marzipan Crostata
Pomegranate Pecan Pie

Fruit Pies

Apple Burgundy Betty Pie
Apricotta Tart
Bella Bellini Tartlettes
Black and Blue Licorice Pie
Black Forest Pie
Concord Frangipane Pie
Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie
Drunken Apricot Pies
Frankenstorm Pie (AKA Banana Ganache Pie)
Grapefruit Shaker Pie
Island Breeze Pie
Killer Apple Pie
Ma’amoul Pie
Mahalapeño Pie
Mango Chutney Pie
Membrillo Pie
Pear Praline Pie
Rhubarb Heart Pies
Roasted Strawberry and Tomato Galette
Rosemary-Peach Tarte Tatin
Strawberry Cereal Streusel Pie
Sugared Plum Tart

Wild Card Pies

Birthday Pie
Black-Bottom Macaroon Pie
Carrot Cake Pie
Chess Pie
Chocolate and Zucchini Pie
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pie Pops
Jack-O-Lantern Pies
Mango Sticky Rice Pie
Maple Shoo-Fly Pie
Margarita Jelly Shot Tartlettes
Matcha Mochi Pie
Old Fashioned Oatmeal Pie
Pup Tarts
Snickerdoodle Pie
Stained Glass Pie
Torta di Verdura

Savory Pies

Caramelized Onion and Apple Tart
Cheesy Mac Pie
Fried Green Tomato Pies
Primavera Pot Pies
Reuben Pie
Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Pie
Taco Pie
Tamale Pies
Tea Tart
Thanksgiving Quiche
Wasabi Pea Pie

…And that’s to say nothing of the wide range of crusts, accompaniments, toppings, and variations included as well. Of course, you’ll also find tons of tips on how to make your best pies ever, going into great detail on equipment, techniques, and ingredients.

Now, if you’ve made it all the way through that cruel temptation of recipe titles, you definitely deserve an actual slice of pie. Although I can’t ship one of these crusted beauties safely through the mail, I would be delighted to send you the blueprint to make scores of your own. To celebrate the official release of Easy as Vegan Pie, I’m giving away one signed and personalized copy, straight from my own reserve. I’m bursting to share this gem, so I can’t wait for it to reach book shelves any longer! If you’d like a big slice of the pie for yourself, enter by leaving me a comment below with your name and email in the appropriate boxes before October 16th, Midnight EST.  The only restriction is that you must have a US mailing address. Tell me about the best pie you’ve ever eaten, or which pie listed above you’re most looking forward to sinking your teeth into!

UPDATE: The entry period is over and a winner has been selected by the trusty random number generator. The participant who’s about to start rolling in dough very shortly is…

Commenter #97; Lizze! Congrats Lizzie, you’ll be hearing from me very shortly about how to collect your prize. Don’t despair if this wasn’t your lucky day. There will be many more exciting giveaways to come…


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Tall Tails

Not one to dwell on the negative, there are still countless happier things to share. It’s the first of December after all, prime time for merriment and holiday spirit, no conditions required. Normally, I’d be the first to snark about the rampant consumerism that hollows out these events into shallow dates that only manufacturers can celebrate. This year, however, it all feels different. Homemade gifts are great, still the best choice, but if you want to buy shiny new toys for every last person on your list? More power to you. If retailers want to tempt shoppers with deep discounts? Fantastic, grab those deals while they’re hot. If that’s what makes the holidays real, if that’s what feels right, then what on earth is so bad about that?

So in the spirit of gift-giving, I’m delighted to share these adorable MugTails by Korin. This sweet set of two bushy-tailed squirrels arrived on my doorstep as an early Hanukkah gift, but it would seem greedy to keep both matching cups. That’s why I’m giving one away, no strings attached. Anyone can enter since I’m able to ship it directly, no matter where you live. Just be sure to leave me a comment before midnight EST on December 8th with a valid email address in the appropriate box. Anything goes, but if you’re feeling short on words, tell me what’s at the top of your wishlist.

UPDATE: And the winner is…

Commenter behind door number #38! That means that andrea, you’ve scored yourself one adorable little squirrely mug! Congrats, and keep your eyes peeled for an email from me shortly.

In case you haven’t figured out your entire shopping list yet, I do have an additional suggestion: A cookbook! Yes, one of my cookbooks would be particularly lovely. In fact, to further sweeten the deal, I’ll send you a free signed bookplate if you purchase any one of my books (My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, or Vegan a la Mode) through the month of December, 2012. This one I must unfortunately restrict to residents of the US only. Once you’ve purchased your book, email me at hannah @ mysweetvegan . com (no spaces) with either a screenshot for online purchases or an image of a scanned receipt.