Author Archives: jjbegonia

Vegan White Hot Chocolate with Chestnut + a Giveaway

It’s taken me a while to put this post together (hence some of the Christmas-y themes present); to get into the swing of 2017, actually.  Anyone else?

Not helping matters is the fact that I spent the first week of the year in Grand Cayman.  The trip was truly a dream, and if I can find a way to wrap my head around writing about some of the wonderfully weird things that happened – with some of my favorite people in the world – then, I’ll do that.  You can definitely expect photos and a recipe to come soon though!

The last couple of weeks then have been spent catching up, tackling a slew of new photography projects, cleaning and organizing (always more cleaning and organizing), and generally chilling and snuggling with Sneaks.  I finally read two of the books that have been resting on my nightstand: Sweetbitter (liked) and The Girls (liked a lot).

My kitchen experiments have been minimal.  I’ve been mostly relying upon cold-weather standbys like big bowls of veggie soup, hearty mixed greens, and cups of steamy beverages to get me through my days.  As the snow continues to fall outside, I am focused as much on keeping warm as I am on staying fueled.  This version of vegan white hot chocolate is one of my go-to recipes for both.

I like this drink because you can more or less take the base – a hot vanilla-infused nut milk – anywhere you like.  The chestnut spread is not necessary (and I realize, is a bit obscure), but it does add some extra sweetness and seasonal flare, if you want to try it.  You can up the adaptogen quotient as much as you wish, but I definitely recommend the maca here. Maca is a natural immune booster, hormone balancer, and universal feel good promoter; all qualities that seem especially important this time of year.

To keep those feel good vibes going, my friends at Dreamfarm would like to give two winners a prize pack that includes 3 of their very best kitchen gadgets, valued at $45.  If you’ve been reading here for a bit then you might know that I love their tools – and I say that as someone who is admittedly not a fan of excess tools, in general.  I like to keep my prep and my cleanup simple!  I am particularly fond of the Levoons for their compact nature, and their handy leveling scrapers.

Each prize pack has: a set of Levoons, and Levups, as well as a Chopula.  You can enter to win via the Rafflecopter widget below.  I’ll select and contact the winners via email one week from today (February 2nd).  Good luck – and if you are in a chilly area of the world right now, please stay warm and cozy!



Woodstock, Vermont Wassail Weekend

My “Christmas spirit” was severely lacking earlier this month.  Are you familiar with that old Faith Hill song “Where are you Christmas”, from How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  I felt as if I was walking around with that playing on a constant loop.

This was weird for me.

I am actually someone who typically (annoyingly) belts out that song, and any other holiday tune that comes to mind to anyone who will listen to me.  I start slowly pulling out my decorations in October; of which there are many.  I keep running lists of the gifts I want to buy for people, all year long.

But this year, meh.

I am not sure what brought this about…maybe I was too focused on a couple of the long-term projects I’ve been working on.  I tend to hone in like a laser (Eye on the prize, you know?) and am practically bursting at the seams to complete and share some things with you in 2017.  Or perhaps, I was just too far in my own head.  There is a part of me that felt very “How is it December, again“?  This year flew.

What I do know for sure is that when I get into that space, the best thing I can do is to “go”.  It can be anywhere really.  There are plenty of country roads near my home that I can ramble down, trails to hike, or sweet small towns to visit.  I’ve never shied away from booking a plane ticket either.  I like to get lost, and simply put, it’s the best way for me to get back to myself.

In this case, I found the happy medium with a road trip to Woodstock, VT for Wassail Weekend.  It was either an instance of extreme serendipity or of astute Facebook algorithms, but I was seeing mentions of this festival everywhere!  All of the photos I clicked on looked like scenes straight from a Currier & Ives print, so I figured if there were any place I could find a bit of that Christmas magic, it would be there.

I was right.


I took approximately 987,654 photos for you, but in words, these are a few of the things that I loved about this beautiful celebration (and place):

The decorations!  Not a corner of Woodstock was left untouched.  Even the cars were decorated!  Each home, shop, and restaurant in the very least had a wreath, and all were so unique and fitting to their locations.  I loved that the Vermont Flannel Company for example, had potted trees outside their storefront with flannel bows tied to them.  My favorite display, however, was the big sleigh, which was perched in front of a flower shop.  The door to the shop was covered in lit garlands and twigs and dried flowers; so gorgeous.

I realize that I had a pretty limited scope, but I felt a true sense of community in this town.  The people that I met seemed genuinely excited about the goings on, and were eager to share not only information about Woodstock, but to lend a helping hand in general.  All of the businesses were extremely crowded by the end of Saturday, visitors were lost, and it was freezing cold outside to boot – but there was nary (from what I could see) a Scrooge in sight!

This is somewhat in keeping with the above, but I went into several restaurants while I was there, and each one had a chalkboard or visible menu that listed all of the local products and ingredients that the establishment was using, all the way down to the Farmhouse Pottery I was eating out of.  We have a little bit of this in Upstate NY, but it would make my heart happy to see more of it.  Coming from a family of small business owners, I know that this is how small businesses grow; through sharing and support, starting in their own communities.  It’s such an awesome thing.




Honeyed Pear and Prosecco Cocktail

Thank You so much to Lunetta for sponsoring this post!  As always all opinions are my own.



Can you picture how the sky looks an hour or so before a big snow squall is about to hit?  In the way that the clouds turn hazy – as if a fog is rolling in – and the sun peeks through for one last hurrah; a mix of grey and pink and yellow?  It’s peaceful and pretty, and what I believe we commonly refer to as the “calm before the storm”.

That was happening outside as I took these photos and looking at them now, I think I may have been channeling some of that vibe when I was staging them.  The light was pouring in in a way that made my house feel both cold and warm at the same time.  I can’t explain it any better than to say that it looked like the best version of that illustrious “Golden Hour”, especially because it was taking place around 1:00 in the afternoon (not during the sunrise or sunset), and it had a very pronounced rosy glow to it.

I actually stopped what I was doing for a minute to admire it.  I had been using a sequined jacket in my setup and the light was giving said jacket a disco ball effect.  You might think this is corny, but to me, it was a simple, sparkly moment of pleasure to behold.

Lunetta (meaning “Little Moon” in Italian) is a brand that celebrates the small pleasures in life.  I am particularly excited to partner with them on this post as Prosecco is by far my favorite libation.  It’s the drink I order when I am out, and the one bottle I always have on hand at my parties.  I even add it to my food, recipe permitting, of course.

I am A-OK with a glass of Prosecco on its own, but I like to throw in special touches here and there as well.  This cocktail has that in the form of pear nectar with background notes of honey and vanilla.  Bear with me here, but it kind of reminds me of that light I was referring to above, in that the flavor profile is cold (chilled dry-ish bubbly, pear) and warm (vanilla-y honey) all at once.

I am planning on serving this drink to my family on Christmas Eve, however, I am looking forward to sipping on it well through winter of 2017 too!