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I haven’t fallen off the planet…

29 Jan

My full plate has been really full for the last 7 months and, unfortunately, creating recipes and blogging had to be moved to the “only when I have time” list. Which, obviously, I never got to!

So, let’s see…since I last blogged, the rest of June 2011 was filled with Brady turning 10, Madison graduating from elementary school, Logan winning the Cub Scout Fishing Derby, and a nice long camping trip up in Michigan.

We spent 4th of July at a friend’s cottage, shared in two weddings, celebrated Logan’s 7th birthday and took Madison to Girl Scout camp in July.

In August, we hosted the family campout, spent lots of time in the pool, and handled the business side of Hornets football, which included Jason coaching.

Junior high football cheerleading (Madison), Hornets football (Brady) and soccer (Logan) practices and games filled September and October, not to mention the beginning of a new school year.

In early October, my dad had a heart attack, followed by a quintuple bypass, so I spent a week in North Carolina.

As Hornets wound down in November, junior high basketball cheerleading filled our afternoons, along with Cub Scouts, a late fall camping trip and Thanksgiving…which led into a jam-packed holiday season, Madison’s 13th birthday, and the kick-off to a new year. Whew! I think I need a vacation!  🙂

Things haven’t slowed down yet, but I baked today (!) and felt the need to share the recipe. My recipe was inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, which I made at Christmas. They were delicious and well-received, but the kids asked for chocolate-chocolate chip cookies today and I decided to “customize” Isa’s recipe and make my own. These are vegan and are the perfect accompaniment to coffee!

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan)
makes 2 dozen

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons almond milk (original or vanilla)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (or more vanilla)
1-2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar, in a small bowl, for topping

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, use a mixer to blend oil, sugar, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, and chocolate extract. Blend on medium speed until creamy. One at a time, add in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt , mixing well after each one. Continue mixing until dough holds together and is smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1-ounce balls (about the size of a big cherry tomato) then roll in 1/4 cup sugar to coat. Flatten slightly and place on cookie sheet about 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until tops are crackled. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes then cool completely on cooling racks. Enjoy!

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Summer is almost here!

26 May

I can almost feel it. We’ve had quite a few warm sunny days and LOTS of spring rainy days, but I think summer is just around the corner.

Most of my vegetable garden is planted, although the wild turkeys that visit my yard every day have decided this year that my garden is nice place to stop for a snack! About a week ago I went out to check on it and they had walked all over in my raised beds and rooted through the dirt, kicking a lot of it out of the wood frame. I don’t know if they’re eating the seeds I planted or looking for worms, but what a mess. Unfortunately, most of the seeds had been in the ground for only a week, so they hadn’t sprouted yet and I can’t tell if seeds are missing or if they will still be coming up. I’m going to have to wait a little while and then try to determine what’s left. I’m sure I will be replanting many things.

I did notice the lettuce was sprouting, which is a good thing because I have recently turned into the salad queen! For some reason, I’m finding it necessary to have a salad every day. I guess that’s a good thing! I can’t wait for all the delicious fresh veggies coming soon. (See below for my latest salad addiction.)

Because I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few things I’ve enjoyed recently.

On Mother’s Day, we all went to my in-laws for dinner. She, of course, made a wonderful dinner, but — the dessert was insanely simple and insanely satisfying. These were called Berry Dessert Nachos. I don’t have the recipe (which came from a diabetic cookbook of hers), but basically you build nachos out of dessert items. For the base, she took whole wheat flour tortillas and brushed them with melted butter. They were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until they became crispy chips. Those went into the bottom of the bowl. On top of that were all kinds of fresh berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. This was all topped with a sort of sweet sour cream mixture. I’m not sure what was in it, but I think a scoop of vanilla yogurt or vegan ice cream would be just right. And then — just to blow your mind! — she sprinkled on toasted almonds and shaved a bar of dark chocolate over that. Absolutely delicious and not at all bad for you.

One of the people I most refer to for what I should be eating is cookbook author Mark Bittman. I borrowed his latest book from the library — “The Food Matters Cookbook.” (If you haven’t read his book, “Food Matters,” definitely put it on your to-read-soon list!) Last week, I made one of his new recipes, Skillet Tamales. It’s a casserole with all the flavors of tamales. The finished dish was really good and the whole family enjoyed it. I had a little trouble mixing up his corn bread topping, even though I followed the recipe exactly. In the end, it came out okay and I will probably make this again, but I need to work on the topping a little. Anyway, check out this picture of total yumminess. I topped mine with guacamole. Jason and the kids garnished theirs with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Do you ever make something to eat and then you sort of become obsessed with it? Like, you eat it for days and days and days and you keep making it all the time until you get burned out? Um…I do this pretty often. For a long time, my favorite homemade lunch was a whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus and then piled up with any kind of salad ingredients I had. I’d roll it into a wrap and enjoy. I still have those once in a while, but I went for months eating that almost every day! Well, my latest lunch addiction is Taco Salad. I made this up off the top of my head one day and now I eat it pretty often — sometimes with the vegan “chicken” and sometimes with black beans. Sometimes with guacamole and most times without. It’s so satisfying! Plus, it makes a huge plateful and is only about 300 calories.

VEGAN TACO SALAD
makes 1 serving

1 vegan “chicken” breast, thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salsa, divided
2 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa (addictive!!!)
1 corn tortilla, baked until crispy

Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and add the oil. Over medium heat, saute the “chicken” pieces until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon of salsa and stir to coat all pieces. Sprinkle with ground cumin, if desired.

Spread out the lettuce on a large plate. Drizzle with lime juice and toss to coat the lettuce. Layer on the corn kernels, grape tomatoes, green onions, and Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa. Top with the “chicken” and the remaining salsa. Crumble the corn tortilla over all and enjoy!

Happy Mother’s Day!

8 May

After gardening for most of the day yesterday, I’m ready for a relaxing Mother’s Day with my kids.

Apparently, breakfast in bed was on the schedule for this morning, but I didn’t know that so I got up as usual. My hubby was busy at the stove with veggies piled everywhere and a carton of farm fresh eggs on the counter. He was busy whipping up breakfast for me — a fantastic omelet stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, onions and vegan cheese, a fresh fruit salad, and an English muffin. Delish! (The only thing missing was a Starbucks decaf soy caramel latte, which is on the schedule for later today, I guess.)

For Mother’s Day, Madison made two handmade cards and bought me three novels from the used book store (she must have been shopping with Nonna in NC!). Brady made me a really cute necklace with a seashell on it, which I will wear to church this morning, and Logan made a card with his very own knock, knock joke on it:

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Lettuce.
Lettuce who?
Lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peas!

Speaking of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peas, the gardens for this year are officially under way! Since we finally had a warm, sunny day, the boys and I turned all the dirt, added compost and then raked out the four garden boxes. We sprinkled in some organic fertilizer and got them ready for the vegetables to go in. I planted several lettuces, Swiss chard, rainbow chard and peas yesterday. We also re-edged all the flower beds, raked out the leaves and did some general backyard cleanup. The flower beds are ready for annuals and mulch. If Mother Nature ever quits teasing us with these on-again-off-again nice days, and spring actually arrives, we’ll be in good shape!

Today, though, is a day for family. The weather is supposed to be beautiful — sunny and 65 degrees. (Maybe we actually will see spring this year!) We’re heading out to my mother-in-law’s for dinner and visiting. To my mom, mother-in-law, grandma, sister, and all the moms out there — I hope you have a wonderfully relaxing day!

Where did December go?!

18 Dec

Goodness…it’s December 18 already?! I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since I blogged anything. I apologize to my regular readers!

I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that my daughter, Madison, auditioned and got a role in the Monroe Community Players’ production of “A Christmas Story.” She played Helen, one of the school girls in Ralphie’s class. Well, the week leading up to the shows was crazy. She had rehearsal every night at 6:00 in Monroe, which is almost a half-hour drive for us. So we were eating dinner at 5, leaving at 5:30 and getting home somewhere between 10:30 and 11 every night. She was exhausted. I was exhausted. It was crazy. But the show was fantastic and I’m so proud of her for working hard and doing such a great job.

Needless to say, that didn’t leave any time for blogging. The day after the last show, I came down with some kind of stomach bug, I think. I had 4 days last week where I just felt nauseous all the time. No other symptoms; just nauseous and tired. That meant…no energy for blogging or doing anything worth blogging about. And now, all of a sudden, it’s the week before Christmas. I still have shopping to do, baking to do, wrapping to do and more.

Tonight I decided to get a jump start on my baking. The kids settled in front of the fireplace to watch a movie and I made two different kinds of biscotti.

A few weeks ago, I had a gingerbread biscotti from Starbucks (I know…not vegan…but fabulous.) Anyway, it was so good I decided to try to create it at home. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that had received a ton of good reviews. I altered it only slightly — I added 1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts, and I’m going to dip the bottom of each finished biscotti in melted white chocolate, like the Starbucks one. Delicious!

I also had been thinking for a while about making alterations to my standard chocolate biscotti recipe. I was envisioning a chocolate biscotti with a hint of peppermint in it. Then the top drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. I decided to try a different chocolate biscotti recipe as my base. Bad move. I should have made the one I always make, with the alterations. Instead, I used a recipe I found in a cookbook that used a box of vegan chocolate cake mix as a base and added 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to the mixture. The finished biscotti have the most amazing, rich, dark chocolate taste with the hint of peppermint…but they are crumbly and didn’t hold together well. Lesson learned. They are definitely still edible (don’t think those will be going to waste!); they just aren’t gift-giving quality.

After both batches were out of the oven and cooling on racks, I walked back into the family room to check on the kids and there was my baby (Logan, 6 years old) sound asleep in the chair by the Christmas tree. Ah-dorable!

More baking to come on Sunday so I’ll try to post some recipes. It’s a whirlwind month and I’m just going with the flow! (Still working on Plan B for this blood pressure situation, too.)

This hits the top of the yumminess scale!

17 Nov

Last night, I invented this delicious little side dish recipe for a vegan Thanksgiving. (Actually, it’s perfect for a traditional Thanksgiving, too).

Anyway, my kids went nuts over this:

“Mom, this is awesome!”

“This tastes like dessert!”

“This is soooo good!”

And from Logan: “Next time, can you make it in a big pan so we can have more than one little bowl?!”

I started with some baked sweet potatoes, added a couple of things I thought would go well with them, and whipped it all up smooth and creamy in the food processor. Scooped into little ramekins and topped with buttery cinnamon walnuts, they were perfect! Sweet, but not too sweet. This Thanksgiving, serve these instead of the usual marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes.

Though it looks like granola in this picture, the topping for these sweet potato casseroles is toasted cinnamon walnuts!

Brandy & Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes
serves 10

6 sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy creamer
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of ground cloves

Topping:
1-1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance), melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat ten 4-ounce ramekins and place them on a large baking sheet. (If you don’t have ramekins, you can try it in a large baking dish. Just bake until it’s heated through and the nuts are lightly browned.)

Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork. Bake in the oven until soft, about 45 minutes. (You can also do this in the microwave.) Meanwhile, mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Scoop the cooked sweet potato from the skins and place in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the topping ingredients. Puree until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the ramekins and smooth the tops. Sprinkle the top of each with the nut mixture. Bake until heated through and the topping is lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy!

Are you ready for MoFo?

1 Nov

Never heard of MoFo? It stands for Month of Food — as in Vegan MoFo. It takes place starting today, World Vegan Day, and continues through the month of November.

What is Vegan MoFo, you ask? It’s a group of bloggers — nearly 500 bloggers, actually — all writing about the awesomeness of vegan food. And I’m one of them.

Since I just completed 31 days of blogging a new recipe every single day, my brain is rather fried right now. Although I probably won’t blog every single day of November, I do have a lot to share with all of you this month. I’ll be blogging all kinds of yummy dishes to make your Thanksgiving dinner amazing. I will be creating some new recipes, veganizing some classics, and reviewing recipes I’ve made from some of my favorite cookbooks and sites on the web.

I will also continue to blog about my journey toward normal blood pressure, eating ethically, feeding kids healthy foods they will love, and any new research or information I find. I may even delve a little deeper into the gluten-free thing.

So make sure you check back often. It’s going to be a fun MoFo!

It’s school Halloween party time!

28 Oct

And I am running around like a mad woman today trying to get everything done! Ahh, the things we do for our kids…

For kindergarten through third grade, our elementary school does traditional children’s Halloween parties — games, candy, and a parade through the school in their costumes. For fourth, fifth and sixth grade, they have a specific theme that has a “lesson” to it.

Logan’s first grade class is having a traditional party. As the “resident” graphic designer, I was asked to make a poster size witch head so they can play Pin The Wart on the Witch with green circle stickers. I have it illustrated in pencil. Still need to color it in with black marker. They also have a Toss Across game (like tic-tac-toe) and asked me to create Halloween panels to put over the X’s and O’s to make it appropriate for the party. Those are done. Logan’s homemade mummy costume is almost done — I ran out of gauze that I’m hot-gluing onto long johns. I’ll have to finish that tonight.

I usually volunteer to bring a food item to parties. In past years, I’ve made this veggie skeleton that’s always a hit. The head is a small cabbage with the center scooped out and filled with veggie dip. You can make it homemade with sour cream (or silken tofu for a vegan version) mixed with garlic, herbs, fresh parsley, black pepper and salt. I take extra cut-up veggies in a big bag and fill in as the kids take them, so the skeleton always stays somewhat intact until the end.

In fourth grade, they spend a good part of October studying native Americans – their culture, food, clothing, etc. They end this segment with a Harvest Party instead of a Halloween party. They dress in native American costumes (I finished making that this morning). They will cook a traditional native American soup themselves (peeling potatoes, cutting corn off the cob, etc.) and have a whole buffet of food that the kids signed up to bring in. My sweet, thoughtful Brady, knowing that his mom likes to cook, signed up to bring in a pumpkin pie. Do I have it baked? Nope. Am I purchasing it from the Kroger deli? Yup. I know…it goes against all I believe in teaching my kids about food, but I just don’t have the time. Instead, I’ll be spending that time making a werewolf costume for him to wear trick-or-treating on Sunday.

And now, my sixth grader — Madison. They’ve been studying “grossology” — as in all things gross. I won’t go into great detail, but let’s just say it involves a lot of bodily functions and fluids. Ick. Instead of a Halloween party, they have Grossology Day tomorrow where they will dress as mad scientists and conduct all kinds of experiments, I guess. They also have a buffet of “gross” foods. How about some kitty litter cake, appropriately decorated with tootsie rolls? Or a pumpkin carved so that salsa is vomiting from his mouth? Gone are the days of the cute veggie skeleton or bat-shaped cookies! Madison decided she wanted to make Snot On A Stick. I tinted melted white chocolate with green and yellow food coloring until it was snot colored. I dipped 4″ pretzel twists in it and set them on wax paper to harden. Then I drizzled them with more “snot” dangling from a spoon so they would look extra boogery. 🙂 Hey, at least she didn’t pick the cake we saw online of a bunch of rats eating a sawed-off arm!

If you are spending tomorrow at your kids’ school parties, enjoy every minute of it and take lots of pictures. Before you know it, they’ll be heading to junior high where they don’t have parties or wear cute costumes anymore.