Vegan Key Lime Tart with Coconut Rum Caramel

Vegan Key Lime Tart with Coconut Rum CaramelI call myself a sometimes-vegan, or vegan-ish. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 11 and I mostly make plant-based meals at home, but I do eat some dairy and eggs (a topic for a different post). Even still, when I had the opportunity to collaborate with Malibu Rum by putting together a recipe for World Vegan Day (this Saturday!), I jumped at the opportunity. Because I don’t buy butter, milk, or eggs at home, all of my baking is vegan. And I can really appreciate the many merits of a completely vegan diet, so I thought this was a great opportunity to show people that it’s not as difficult or limiting as they might think.

Even though the colder weather seems to mean just one thing for most people: pumpkin-spiced everything, the grey days already have me dreaming of sunshine and tropical vacations. Since flavours have such a powerful ability to transport our minds to another place, I decided to use this as inspiration for creating an over-the-top dessert that reminds me of sunny holidays and afternoons at the beach.

This Key Lime Tart is mostly raw, so you won’t even have to turn on the oven. But filled with a creamy lime custard, spiked with ‘drunk pineapple,’ and covered in coconut rum caramel sauce, I think it’ll prove to even the most die-hard skeptics that vegan desserts can be just as delicious and decadent as any other.

IMG_5584Here’s what you’ll need…

Pineapple Topping
1 cup chopped pineapple
2 tbsp Malibu Rum

1 heaping cup dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained, then finely chopped
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt

Lime Custard
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and then drained
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp maple syrup
juice of 2 limes

Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp Malibu rum
1/4 tsp sea salt

IMG_55861. Soak pineapple in rum in an airtight container in the fridge, preferably overnight.
2. Thoroughly combine crust ingredients, using your hands to form a thick dough. Or, if  you have a food processor, blitz ingredients a few times until dough forms.
3. Press dough into pie tin and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. While your pie crust is setting, combine your lime custard ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.
5. Pour custard into your pie crust.
6. Squeeze pineapple gently and drain excess juice/rum (I recommend setting it aside for a cocktail).
7. Press pineapple into the custard.
8. Place pie into the fridge for at least 2 hours.
9. To make your caramel, add maple syrup, coconut sugar, and coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves.
10. Add rum and sea salt to the caramel sauce and simmer, continuing to stir, for three minutes.
11. Remove caramel sauce from heat and allow it to come to room temperature (it will thicken as it does).
12. Drizzle pie with caramel sauce right before serving. Serve pie chilled.

The pie will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. This recipe makes way more caramel sauce then you’ll need, so keep it in the fridge and use it for dunking cookies, topping ice cream, or whatever else your heart desires. If the coconut oil solidifies, just put the jar of caramel into a bowl of warm water until it melts.

My friend Daisy said this tart is, “almost as good as sex” and vegans and carnivores alike were singing its praises when I served it to them. I think it tastes even better served with a cocktail – especially pina coladas or a pineapple mojito. Go ahead, pretend you’re on holiday!

Let me know if you give it a try. And I’d love to know, have you ever tried baking with rum? Even if you’re a dyed in the wool carnivore, will you try making something vegan this Saturday?

Love, cocktails in coconuts, & floppy sun hats,

Bloggers Who Brunch.

IMG_5547Sometimes you just need a day designed to buoy your spirits and refill your sails. My darling friend Caroline and I have both been feeling a bit like this recently, so when she told me she was going to be in London last Saturday, I set about putting together a list of the most Caz-worthy activities I could think of and we decided to make a day of it. Her top pick was a trip to Bubbledogs, which we followed up with an afternoon swanning around Knightsbridge.

If you’ve never heard of it, Bubbledogs is an amazing little spot on Charlotte Street that only sells hot dogs (all with veggie options) and champagne. But these aren’t your average ketchup slathered fare. There are only gourmet toppings on offer – like generous lashings of truffle mayo, mac ‘n cheese, and caramelised lettuce.

IMG_4753IMG_5538Matthew and I had been here on a date a few months ago, and I was so happy to be stopping by for a return visit. I couldn’t help ordering the same thing again – their BLT with avocado instead of bacon and a side of tater tots. Accompanied by a couple glasses of bubbly, of course.

After we’d had what was admittedly a very decadent lunch, we caught the tube to Knightsbridge so that Caz could introduce me to the understandably legendary Pierre Herme macarons.

While their price tag makes them quite a luxury, we each picked out a few cookies for a special treat. It was difficult to choose from among all of the tantalizing flavours, but I finally settled on salted caramel, creme brulee, and white truffle with hazelnut. The last one was my favourite – I can’t help myself from trying truffle-flavoured anything. And although it was an unexpected combination, the result was absolutely exquisite.

IMG_5549IMG_5542After a quick peek into Christian Louboutin (because, why not?) we took our precious cookies around the corner to Rococo Chocolates, where we settled at an outdoor table with piping hot cups of coffee and a few complimentary chocolates to nibble on. This shop was an unexpected discovery, but I was completely taken by the friendly staff, charming decor and, of course, the mouthwateringly delicious confections.

Because I knew we were planning an over-the-top day, I decided to dress for the occasion and put together an outfit that paired bold, playful accessories with my new favourite dress.

Here’s what I wore…

IMG_5551IMG_5557IMG_5562IMG_5561I’m wearing a Crown & Glory x Rock ‘n Roll Bride Elbie Crown, a thrifted ASOS dress, Joe Fresh tights, a necklace c/o PunkyPins, and thrifted Irregular Choice shoes.

I love how differently people react to when you put effort into what you wear and walk around with a grin, knowing that the world is your oyster. Plus all it takes is a glitter crown or a pair of ridiculous shoes to bring a smile to someone’s face.

Being surrounded by such opulent homes, we couldn’t resist having a quick photo shoot and imagining what life would be like if we lived in one (although I have to admit, my spiritual home is still East London).

IMG_5579Later we were joined by a couple of Caz’s friends and the rest of the day was filled with wine at a charming pub, feasting on pasta under a canopy of fairy lights, and sitting outside chatting over more wine until the wee hours of the morning.

Caz is one of my absolute favourite people and it was so nice to spend a day being indulgent and talking about everything from holidays and relationships to the ebooks we’re writing and our blogging plans. I’m so thrilled that she’ll be moving to London soon, so that our blogger dates and frivolous adventures can be a lot more frequent.

So tell me all about your weekends, bluebirds. Did you eat anything wonderful? Wear anything special? Did you make time for self-care or fill it to the brim with adventures? I want to know everything!

To goblets of bubbly & truffles on everything,

Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Nomi Chi

Nomi3Nomi Chi, 25, Gastown Tattoo Parlour in Vancouver, Canada

I love people with an inspirational, unconventional career path – it goes to show that there isn’t some predetermined formula for making our dreams come true. I would never have guessed looking at Nomi Chi’s beautiful, truly unique tattoos that she started tattooing from home and that her career path was anything but straightforward. Now she has a large following online and tattoos at one of Vancouver’s top studios, so I’m excited for her to share some of her story with us.

How long have you been tattooing?
It’s a bit fuzzy as I had a bumpy start. More than five years and less than ten years.

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
I was fourteen, I think, and it was a treble clef on my ankle. I wanted it to stand out from other treble clef tattoos so I opted to have a halo of blue tattooed around it, too. I use this story as an example as to why people should generally wait until they are a bit older or psychologically mature before they start getting tattooed.

Nomi2Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own (ie. in your collection, not that you’ve tattooed)?
I don’t think so. I see all of my tattoos – although they are separate pieces – as part of a singular project so I don’t favour one over another. I guess the obvious answer would be my throat tattoo because it’s my most visible and has become a kind of signifier of identity for me, but I also have tiny shitty tattoos that are of equal importance.

How did you get started in tattooing? What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
Haha that’s a doozy. I picked up a machine and an informal apprenticeship when I was 15. It was very touch-and-go for the first three years: I tattooed out of my apartment and treated it more as a hobby than a career. I began to work in a shop shortly after I turned 18, which was a big milestone, and began doing guest spots in other cities when I was about 19 or 20 – another milestone. Being a young woman, I was met with a lot of distrust and outright vitriol when I was just starting out. If it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity of a few select tattooers, the trust of some really brave clients and friends, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.

Nomi1Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
Not really. Again, I started tattooing before I finished high school. I did some odd gigs when I was really young: being a studio janitor, some commissions here and there. But tattooing was pretty much my first and only real job.

How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
Certainly. I come from an underprivileged place, so my priority was finding lucrative ways to practice my art. Tattooing was suggested to me on a whim, and by sheer dumb luck I landed my kind-of apprenticeship. The more time I spent tattooing, the more I fell in love with the culture and the history surrounding it.

Nomi4How would you describe your style of tattooing?
Inconsistent. Improvised, deconstructive.

Who or what influences your work?
My art-doing friends, literature, music. Interacting with the world around me. These days I’m trying to create more images than I consume, but it’s hard going when there’s such a staggering amount of talent on Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media outlets.

Thanks, Nomi! You’re such an inspiring example of the power of hard work, tenacity, and the courage to dream.

And if you’re as in love with her work as I am, be sure to check Nomi out on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram.

Yours in inky daydreams,

Third photograph by Amanda Bullick of Brutally Beautiful.

The Expat Diaries: FOMO.

IMG_8878The fear of missing out.

That niggly feeling that we have to do it all, see it all, be it all or else we won’t measure up. We’ll disappoint others. We’ll deny ourselves wonderful, life-changing opportunities.

We fear that if we say no to something, if we choose to have a quiet evening alone or go home early, that we’ll stop being invited. That our friends will think we’re boring. That we’ll miss out on meeting someone wonderful. That our lives will be medicore.

So we push ourselves further and further. Doing things not because they feel good, but because we’re afraid not to. We deny ourselves the rest, self-care, and alone time we need because we give into the fear.

I think FOMO is particularly acute for expats.

We’ve moved across the world and so we feel an enormous amount of pressure to make the most of it.

I often feel guilty because the average tourist has probably seen more of London’s monuments, been to more of her museums, and eaten in more of her first class restaurants than I have.

Even though living here I have the privilege of seeing London in ways a tourist never will, my mind fills with what ifs. What if my application for a long-term visa is denied? What if something happens and I’m forced to move back to Canada? What if I’m missing out on my only chance to soak up London?

This is silly, of course.

None of us know what the future holds, but I know that I plan to stay here. I can only live with that in mind and by making the most of the present moment.

Sometimes that means sashaying across London on adventures and others it means staying home and reading a great book in the bath or tucking into bed for some trashy TV.

So I’m really grateful to my friend Jayne for introducing me to JOMO – the joy of missing out.

Let that sink in for a moment.

There’s a joy in living with intention, rather than obligation. In striking a balance that gives our life a sense of ease, rather than feeling forced. In creating space for the self-care that fills us up, so that we’re ready for all of the adventures we decide to seize.

Instead of being afraid to miss out, let’s remember the joy of it. From that point of view, is there anything that would feel good to let go of?

Love, salted caramels, & opulent bubble baths,

This is London: Bloomsbury Loo Tour

This is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourLondon Loo ToursSo I told you that last Saturday I went on a very unusual tour of Bloomsbury. I met Hannah through the Network of Nice, as she was looking to meet people while visiting London and when she said she was planning to go on  The London Loo Tour, I knew I had to tag along!

As their slogan says, this is not your ‘bog standard’ London tour. Instead of snapping selfies in front of Big Ben and learning the history of Buckingham Palace, your friendly guide will take you around a London neighbourhood to learn all about, you guessed it, loos.

London Loo  Tours was started by American expat Rachel after finishing her Theatre Studies degree in London and becoming one of the first Graduate Entrepreneur Visa recipients.

And while it’s certainly unconventional, this was a surprisingly entertaining and informative way to spend a couple of hours wandering around Bloomsbury (Rachel also offers tours of Waterloo and Portabello Road).

This is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourThis is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourFrom the history of public sanitation to how access (or lack thereof) to public toilets has close links to issues of class and gender, I never knew there was so much one could learn about loos! We even had the chance to peek inside some of London’s most historical and picturesque toilets.

Above are the gentlemen’s toilets in the Princess Louise – one of London’s former gin palaces, which was recently restored to all of its former glory – complete with original tiling and marble urinals!

And while women historically women have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to having any public toilets whatsoever, the lush ladies facilities at the Knights Templar pub in Chancery Lane (pictured below) go a far way in making up for it. Yes,  you can even lounge around on the sofas rather than waiting in a ghastly queue.

This is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourThis is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourFrom start to finish, Rachel does an amazing job of lacing her tour with humour, quirky facts, and helpful hints on where to pee for free!

I don’t want to give away all of her secrets, but here are a few of my favourite things I learned:

heartThe term ‘loo’ came into use after being shortened from “gardyloo” – an English warning cry used before emptying their chamber pots from windows into the streets (actually a mispronunciation of the French “garde à l’eau!” meaning “look out for the water!”)

heartThe phrase “the wrong end of the stick” allegedly stems from ancient Roman times when communal toilets were all the rage and they’d clean their backsides with a sponge on a stick (gross, right?)

heartThe City of London has a Community Toilet Scheme, which means that the borough pays pubs and restaurants to use their toilets. So if you see one of their stickers in a window, you can waltz right in and down to the toilets without even pretending you’re going to meet a friend or buy a drink.

This is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourThis is London: Bloomsbury Loo TourSadly Rachel must leave the UK when her visa expires in November and the tours will end. So if you’re up for a bit of toilet talk, be sure to book in before 19 November and use promo code “thelaughingmedusa” for a cheeky 15% discount. You can tell the loo lady I sent you!

If you can’t make it in time, Rachel hopes to continue the tour with new guides and an audio version will be available from the end of November, so just keep an eye on her website.

Now I’m just waiting for some of my new loo learning to come up at a pub quiz or on University Challenge!

What’s the quirkiest tour you’ve ever gone on? And what hidden corners of London should I visit next?

Here’s to living like a tourist,

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