Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite confections are from Allison’s Gourmet. Allison has mastered the art of making vegan caramels, brittle, toffee, truffles, cookies, fudge, bark candy and more. And you know how hard it is to find really great confectionary treats that are vegan, fair trade and organic. Yeah, there are a lot of chocolate bars in the stores but not a lot of gift-worthy, high-end goodies that you can be confident sending to loved ones or business associates while still being able to sleep at night.

Her treats are so good they’re our preferred holiday gift for clients 2 years running. And of course, they work for employee bonuses as well, not to mention Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. And now you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate toward anything in Allison’s Gourmet Store. Yep, just read further.

The mastermind that is Allison.

If you haven’t heard about Allison’s Gourmet confections before, you may have seen Allison’s recipes in VegNews magazine. Same chic, same dogged dedication to veganizing great classics whether they’re for dinner or treats.

Gena at Choosing Raw wrote a great backgrounder on Allison and yeah, it totally makes me look like a lazy pixel pushing schmuck. But hey, if we don’t have people like Allison to look up to as heroes, we’d all just be a bunch of aimless mouse potatoes and then were would the world be?

Toffee, caramels, truffles, cookies, how will you choose?

My personal favorites always lean toward the caramels, toffees and brittle. She even has salted, salted chocolate, and chipotle caramels along with traditional vanilla. Lots of varieties of toffee and brittle too.

If you lust after chocolate truffles, Allison just launched a new palette of flavors this month! I did order a box for my own personal employee bonus this year and they are indeed silky, flavorful and very decadent.

And let’s not forget the cookies, brownies, fudge and other delectibles. We received a gift box of the cookies yesterday at work and I am totally hooked on the Butterscotch Pecan even though it was a limited edition. So the next time that flavor swings around on the seasonal schedule, be sure to snag some.

We have a winner! Congrats Meryl!

Random Number Generator select Meryl from among the entries submitted prior to 9am today, Chicago time (per the contest rules). Congratulations Meryl!

Is your mouth watering yet? So enter the contest already!

Allison is providing one lucky Snarky Vegan reader a $20 gift certificate for anything from her online store. I will announce the winner on December 23rd so you can choose to give the gift certificate as a stocking stuffer (printable pdf certificate), keep it for yourself or use it for New Years or some future special event.

I’ll make this very simple: you can enter up to 6 times in the pool to win a $20 gift certificate from Allison’s by leaving a separate comment for each of the following:

  1. Look through Allison’s Gourmet store and leave a comment with what you’d like to buy from her gourmet shop.
  2. Leave a second comment if you care to divulge how you intend to use the giveaway.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using this bit: “Enter @SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  4. Either like Allison’s on Facebook or post about this giveaway on your wall: “Enter SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  5. Follow Allison’s on Twitter.
  6. Follow SnarkyVegan on Twitter.

Deadline for your comments is 9:00 am December 23, 2011. Drawing will be among comments left prior to 9:00 am CST (Chicago Standard Time ;-) I will send out the gift certificate immediately but you MUST ENTER WITH YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS when leaving a comment.

US residents only, sorry.

Legal disclaimer: Yes, I know Allison, I order her goodies for our clients at work and no, she’s never given me anything for free or in return for my patronage. I just think she’s an awesome happy person whose groovy vibe rubs off on everyone she meets. And I’m a whore for supreme toffee to go with my single malt.

When the summer heatwave rolls through Chicago, all most of us can think about is staying indoors with the AC cranked up. This year has been no exception. The heat index on Wednesday of this week was expected to reach 115F! It can also be torturous to bake in your kitchen on days like that. So rather than cranking up the oven to make chocolate chip cookies, I decided to use DH’s car as a solar oven.

But really, any car will do. Your Prius works just as well as an eco-terrorizing Hummer. The key here is to have 3+ hours of 95F as your external temperature. And I suppose non-tinted windows would help your car reach the heat neccessary to actually bake cookies.

It was touch and go there at the beginning because some clouds moved over the sun. That brought the temperature inside the car down to 130F. You need the temperature inside the car to be at 180F or higher.

What you need:

  • Sunny day with temperature of 95F or higher for at least 3 hours.
  • Car with windows that close up tight.
  • Place to park the car so sun reaches the windshield for the duration of baking time.
  • Baking sheets covered in aluminum foil.
  • Towels.
  • Potholders.
  • Eggless and dairy-free dough.
  • Thermometer.

Steps:

  1. Check the hourly forecast to ensure you’re going to have at least 3 hours of 95F + heat.
  2. Park your car so the windshield is facing the sun for the duration of baking. Take nearby trees into consideration. Close it up to pre-heat while preparing the dough.
  3. Pick a recipe that does not contain eggs or milk. The car won’t get hot enough to make non-vegan dough safe to eat. There are a lot of vegan cookie recipes you can search for via Google. The recipe I used was Garrick’s Chocolate Chip cookies on page 215 of Kelly Peloza’s cookbook, The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.
  4. Foil your baking sheets with the shiny side up to reflect more heat.
  5. Cover your dashboard with towels in case something melts off the baking sheets.
  6. Position an oven thermometer on the dash so you can monitor the temperature by looking through the window. You’re shooting for 3 hours of 180F inside the car. Mine only reached 160F so I think the Yaris’ windshield may have some sort of coating on it to cut down on heat. So I left my batch of cookies in an hour longer than normal.
  7. Place the cookie sheet, loaded with dough, on the dash. Close the doors and start timing. At 1 hour, the cookies will be flattening. At 2 hours, they’ll look very flat and smooth. At 3 hours, you can pretty much tell through the windshield if the cookies are close to done. Chocolate chips will start poking through the dough, deforming the smooth surface. You can open the door and test a cookie by pressing the center gently with your thumb. If it’s firm, and a spatula lifts them easily, they’re done.
  8. Using potholders, remove the trays to your kitchen, setting them on trivets to cool. I kid you not, these trays will burn your hands. Use the same precaution you’d use removing trays from your kitchen oven.

Upside:

  • free energy
  • eco-friendly
  • easy
  • car smells wonderful
  • conversation starter among co-workers and neighbors
  • crispy edges and chewy centers
  • no way to burn the cookies

Downside:

  • not a totally crunchy cookie but great for softer cookies
  • not hot enough to caramelize sugars in cookies
  • takes a while
So no more belly aching about the weather, eh? Let’s get baking!
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