June 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s Sunday. The last day of my maternity leave – well, technically Friday was but you get my drift. Tomorrow a new adventure begins. It’s hard to believe 3 months have already passed.
I had high hopes for my leave – hah, naive hopes at that! Sure, I wanted to bond with my daughter and relish in all things baby – that goes without saying. But I also thought I’d have time to read, organize my house (finally clean out those drawers that have been eyeing me for years), cook and blog about all kinds of new delicious vegan treats, join some mommy groups, and last but not least – exercise. Well, none of the latter happened! I did get to relish in all things baby – but as for the other stuff, forget about it! To be fair, I did clean out one drawer (woo hoo!) and I was able to blog once – but as for any other dreams I had about maternity leave, they were delusions. Had I told any moms about my plans, they would have silently rolled their eyes – and rightfully so!
But in the end, none of that matters – even though my drawers remain cluttered and books are left unread, most importantly, I had the fortunate opportunity to be home with our daughter for 3 months. Three months that I will forever treasure. Days on end of lounging around and watching her expressions change from one moment to another. Watching her discover her little self bit by bit – learning to suck her thumb, to smile, to hold on tight to my finger (my favorite). These are days I wouldn’t trade for anything – and it is beyond sad to leave as she is just starting to coo and smile.
And so as I soak in every last moment of this week – I’m filled with mixed emotions. Excited to return to work, to my colleagues, and to my projects – but devastated to leave my daughter. Excited to continue to develop myself and my career so that she will have a strong woman to look up to when she’s older – but scared at what I may be missing out on. I now know the pain that every new working mother feels.
Ironically when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to share was how to make great, quick meals. As a working woman, this was important. As a working mom – this will be critical! Having a baby is no joke. It’s a 24-7 job. Something I could never have understood before her arrival. And as I wonder how I’ll do this job, and the job I’m paid to do – I rest upon the reassurance that this is doable – that millions of women around the world do this – all in their own way. I’m extremely fortunate to work with many of these women and I’m sure I’ll be relying on them heavily in the coming months as I set out on this adventure. Not to mention I have THE best husband, so I’m hardly in this alone.
As I prepare myself to return to work, I’m focusing on ways to find balance in the new chaos – particularly when it comes to food. Having a newborn means lots of takeout – and we are SO over takeout! No more we beg! Homecooking is what we need. But that takes time – sometimes lots of time. So I’m looking for quick fix options that pack all the nutrition and flavor needed.
I shamefully have had these Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry for over a year. Anyone who has ordered from them will understand why this is shocking. We spent Memorial Day weekend with one of my best friends in North Carolina. Not only did we get to soak up the most amazing views at her family’s lake house - but we indulged in the most delicious home cooked meals. Watching her work her magic in the kitchen – including a pot of Rancho Gordo black beans – reignited my passion for good quality home cooking and the desire to be just a bit more of a planner. Whenever I want beans, it’s at the moment and I reach for a can. Soaking and slow cooking can seem oh-so-daunting. But it really needn’t be so – and the end product far outshines any old can of beans.
For these two dishes I used Rancho Gordo’s Runner Cannellinni bean. I cooked them in the traditional Rancho Gordo method - soaking all night in a bowl of water, then adding the drained beans to the crock pot with sauteed onion, garlic, and new water. They cooked on high for 5 hours. The resulting bean is huge and buttery – a perfect blank canvas for any pairing. We enjoyed them with spinach the first night and as a tasty salad for leftovers.
Cannellinni Beans with Sauteed Spinach
This dish is delicious with spinach but would work well with any cooked green – kale, collards, etc. I used one box of fresh organic spinach as that’s what I had on hand but this dish would have been great with several as the spinach cooks down so much. Prepare beans according to package instructions. If using crock pot method – cook beans throughout the day so they’re ready when you get home to make dinner. Pulling this together once beans are cooked takes just minutes! Simply heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add spinach to hot oil and garlic if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Saute spinach until bright green and wilted, about 5 minutes. Add desired amount of beans and a little liquid the beans cooked in. Season dish with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread broiled with vegan butter.
Cannellinni Bean Salad with Asparagus
This dish is a cinch to pull together if the beans and asparagus are cooked. I had both on hand as leftovers. While we ate this right after preparing, it would be even better if it sat and marinated for an hour, or overnight.
Prepare beans according to package instructions. Roast asparagus at 400 with coconut or olive oil, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes or until tender and slightly golden on tips. Cut asparagus in one inch strips and set aside. Prepare the dressing in the serving bowl by mixing together the juice of one lemon, equal part olive oil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, a bunch of chopped parsley, one minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of red pepper flakes. Add chopped red pepper, onion, the cannellinni beans, and asparagus. Mix and enjoy!
April 13, 2013 § 1 Comment
Where has the time gone? I can’t believe my last post was in January! I knew it had been a while but not THAT long…
Life has changed drastically for me since that post. We welcomed our baby girl on March 16, 2013 – she was a tiny little little thing at 5 lbs. 12 oz. but super strong! Everyone in the hospital kept commenting on how healthy and alert she was. I’m convinced my vegan diet had a lot to do with it. More on being vegan and pregnant later…
For now, I want to share this amazing superfood frosty. I’ve only got a few moments so this will be a quickie. Time flies when you’re nursing around the clock
I had virtually no cravings throughout my pregnancy. Chocolate chip cookies were the only thing. But, when I had a few weeks left of my pregnancy I suddenly got the strongest craving for a chocolate milkshake! Finding a vegan milkshake was impossible and I wasn’t about to get fast food. Luckily for me, my doula – aka wonder woman, more on her in another post! – came over and prepared her vegan frosty for us. OMG!!!!! It was so good. It was just like the milkshake I’d been craving. Here’s my version of her amazing frosty – I loaded it up with some extra super foods to try and get as much nutrition is as possible. She encouraged me to load up on the raw cacao since it is great for muscles – and the uterus is a muscle and mine was getting ready for the biggest job of it’s life! I ate this every day at the end of my pregnancy to get in tip top shape for the big adventure. I’m only slightly embarassed to say I eat this EVERY SINGLE DAY – even though delivery has come and gone . But since it is truly loaded with amazing nutrients – I don’t think it hurts. At least that’s what I’m telling myself!
This makes a very large frosty. It can yield two smaller frosties which you could share with someone – but be warned, you won’t want to. I don’t have fancy ice cream glasses so I serve mine in a chilled beer glass Items marked with an asterisk are not essential for the taste – they are just extra goodness for your body! As with any recipe, give this version a try and then adjust to your taste as needed.
Vegan Superfood Chocolate Frosty
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk (I always buy unsweetened vanilla)
- 3 tbsp raw cacao
- 2 tsp maca
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar (raw is even better!)
- a few dashes of cinnamon, salt, and vanilla to taste
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp chia seeds*
- 1/2 tbsp goji berries*
- 1/2 tsp black sesame seeds*
- 10 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients except ice ensuring to catch any cacao that may stick to the sides of the blender. Once well blended add enough ice to make a frosty consistency – depending on your ice cube sizes it may require a little more or a little less.
Cheers to your health and a daily dose of chocolate!
January 5, 2013 § 2 Comments
After my somewhat slumpy start to 2013, the week picked up and I finally feel the rush of new activity, new beginnings, and possibilities. As I said in my last post, I really wanted to start the year with some vegan inspiration for y’all. Well, today I’ve got it: vegan, dairy-free, egg-free pancakes!
I still remember the first vegan pancake I ever made. I was getting a little frustrated with my vegan diet – having one of those moments where I was thinking, maybe this wasn’t for me. It was a weekend and I wanted my comfort food: brunch food to be exact. All it took was a good pancake to turn me around. I find this to be true time and time again. Just when I think the going gets tough and I may want to call the quits, it’s something quite small and unexpected that turns me around. Those pancakes are still my go-to as they are loaded with healthy ingredients. But while delicious, they aren’t the fluffy, airy, buttery bites that a pancake is known for.
Enter Candle 79′s Homestyle Pancake recipe. I’m truly ashamed to admit I’ve had this cookbook for a year – a year! – and this is the first recipe I’ve made from it. Oh I’ve spent hours reading it and gazing at the photos like a love-sick teenager, but why I never just broke out the ingredients in the kitchen and made something is beyond me. Sometimes for all my good intentions I can really be quite lazy.
This recipe was the one that immediately caught my attention when I first got this cookbook. What stopped me for so long from making it was the Ener-G Egg replacer. This is an easy pick-up from Whole Foods and there is no excuse for me not buying this ingredient sooner. Shame on me! But alas, I finally had it in my pantry as I needed it for a few Thanksgiving recipes so there were no more excuses. I finally cracked open this cookbook to get it dirty with specks of flour and vegan butter stains.
Boy was it worth it! These pancakes do not disappoint. They crisp up perfectly just as a good pancake should, resulting in a nice crusty outside and fluffy cakey inside. I’ve made them both with white flour and whole wheat flour and both ways are great – the white flour does give them just a bit more fluffiness. The cinnamon in the recipe is a bit strong which is fine by me as I love cinnamon, but if you aren’t a big fan you may go light on it.
These cakes are delicious with just a hint of maple syrup but I like to serve with warm berries. I always have frozen berries in my freezer for my smoothies so I just pop some in a glass container in the microwave for a minute or so to heat them up. If I have time I’ll let them cook on the stove a while to become like a compote. While it is visually lovely to serve the berries over the pancakes – they quickly absorb all the liquid – so if you’re like me and your favorite part of a pancake is that buttery crust, serve the berries on the side. Another lovely, albeit less healthy, option is to top these with some chocolate chips and sliced bananas if you’re really feeling decadent.
Last but not least, if you’re making these just for you – although I’ll forewarn you that whoever smells them cooking will want them, diet resolutions and all – go ahead and make the full batch. The batter keeps well in the fridge and then you can have pancakes day or night in a jiffy. The only downside: you can have pancakes day or night! You’ll find yourself whipping up a cake or two for no other reason other than you can!
So whether your New Year’s resolution is to do a vegan challenge for health or ethical reasons, or you’re just trying to cut back on dairy and eggs in general – I hope you’ll give these pancakes a try!
Get the Candle 79 Homestyle Pancake Recipe here.
January 2, 2013 § 5 Comments
Hello friends! I meant to write on New Years Eve and then again on New Years Day – I was hoping to write some encouraging words to inspire you to start a vegan challenge if you haven’t already done so. But with the emotions I was feeling, I couldn’t focus on a vegan challenge and neither day could I find the words to express what I wanted to say. So I hope you’ll bear with me here. The words are still hard to come by as I have a whole mixture of emotions saying goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013. Mostly I guess I am relived…
It seems like both yesterday and forever ago that we were in that cold, too-bright waiting room at the hospital. Waiting to learn my Dad’s fate. I remember leaving and barely being able to make it through that first night. I laid in bed at my parent’s home wondering how on earth we’d manage – literally reminding myself to breathe in and out and just make it through the night. Minutes turned to hours which turned to days and before I knew it, Daddy was buried – and gone forever.
As the weeks wore on I counted the days endlessly. Day 25…Day 78…Day 123… I remember wondering how long the counting would go on for – at what point would I stop? And then, out of nowhere, I did stop.
Just as I had counted those days – I remember wondering how we’d possibly make it through our “Year of Firsts”. We had many…
My first birthday without him – and then my Mom’s and sister’s and husband’s.
Our first fourth of July BBQ without him – where he would have been manning the grill and playing host.
My parent’s wedding anniversary – what would have been their 32nd.
Mother’s Day… Father’s Day… Halloween – his favorite holiday of all… Thanksgiving.
Then there were the real tough ones. His birthday on 12/21. He would have been 62. And then of course there was Christmas.
So needless to say with all these firsts, and hard ones at that, I didn’t expect to be totally knocked out by New Years. In fact I’d been looking forward to it. I even ordered New Years cards! Something I’ve never done. I was ready for 2013. Ready to give 2012 a big kick and watch it tumble away.
But when push came to shove, saying goodbye to 2012 wasn’t so easy. Welcoming 2013 – welcoming a year in which my Dad will have never lived – never smiled, never laughed, never sat on his back patio reading his iPad – welcoming this year meant he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I so wanted to welcome 2013 with open arms – but I just couldn’t. I really truly wanted to make resolutions and goals and be excited – to watch the ball drop with anticipation and joy. But I couldn’t. And that was alright.
I didn’t jump up and down at New Years. I reflected. I peacefully said goodbye to 2012 with a light wave and looked toward the New Year. And as if nature knew I was going to be needing a little help – today marks 28 weeks of our pregnancy. Magically it seems the 12 week countdown begins and I need to get into “game-mode” and focus on finalizing all the details to welcome my precious little girl. Knowing I’ll be a mother soon has literally lit up my world. I’m awaiting my baby girl with open arms – ready to receive her and give her my entire life. Life is funny like that. It’s totally messy, but thank goodness for the mess. It’s what keeps us going.
Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve likely shared too much over the past 8 months and possibly today. But sharing here whether anyone is reading or not has been very helpful.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. And I will be back to hopefully inspire some of you to understake that 30 day vegan challenge! We will be starting the inspiration with…drumroll please…pancakes! Yes, pancakes so light and fluffy you may never make them with dairy or eggs again!
November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Trying to explain our first Thanksgiving without Dad is pretty much indescribable. So, I think I’d rather not even try. I’ll just say that we managed to make it through. All in all, it was as good a day as could be. But honestly, I’ll be happy next year when I’ve got my baby girl with me. It will surely give us all a reason to smile.
Now onto the food. I got away with having a fully vegan Thanksgiving! I was hosting – a first for us. My mom had planned to bring a turkey. I was literally sick all week just thinking about. I just didn’t want that turkey in my house. Well, luckily for me (and the turkey) she wasn’t able to bring it. So, score! We had a fully vegan Thanksgiving!
I had really hoped my family would ooh and ahh over the food and say they didn’t even miss the bird. But reality is, that did not happen. Everything I made was a new recipe and we had about a 50% success rate. It wasn’t that some of them were bad, they just weren’t all great. So lesson learned, next year I’ll try and test recipes prior to the day of – or let’s be real, with a new baby I’ll probably barely be making it through my first Thanksgiving as a parent!
Here’s a full run-down of what I served for a vegan Thanksgiving. It is a long list, I know. My hope is this feedback will help you plan for Christmas and future holidays to come. I spend a lot of time researching vegan holiday recipes and know how hard it is to find them so hopefully this helps a few of you. For more ideas, visit my vegan holiday pinterest board.
“Pigs” in a blanket
I nearly squealed with delight when I realized crescent rolls were vegan. My mom makes pigs in a blanket all the time at the holidays for us to snack on while she cooks dinner. I tried Lightlife’s smart dogs and was pleasantly surprised at my first bite. It tasted just like I remember pigs in a blanket tasting. Definitely worth a try. Just cut crescent roll dough into strips and wrap around the smart dogs. Cook according to crescent roll package instructions.
These may have been the best things I made all day – I really wish the picture did them justice. I didn’t have a mini muffin tin so my poppers turned out to be more like muffins. But trust me, no one complained! These are so good on their own and even better with the pumpkin butter – btw, I made this “butter” the night before and it seriously took everything within me to not finish the whole bowl. It was that good! (Note: for the poppers, I added 1/2 tsp baking soda as some of the comments said to do and substituted EnerG for the egg and Earth Balance for the butter to make them vegan)
Pre-vegan, I absolutely adored Giada’s fried ravioli recipe. It was a hit and my family would always ask for it. I wanted to see if it was possible to recreate as a vegan option. I found this recipe which worked great. I wish I kept the name of the brand of ravioli I used but I didn’t. They were from Whole Foods, vegan, and in the freezer section. I just sat them out about an hour before I needed them and then followed this recipe’s instructions. Now, they weren’t ooey gooey like Giada’s – but for a vegan option, they fit the bill! And as a bonus, something about them was even easier to fry than the non-vegan version.
Marinated Vegetable Salad
Sadly, I can’t share this recipe as it’s a friend’s treasured family recipe but I just wanted to prove that we had something decent to eat and not just a carb overload!
OK, I’ve learned my lesson. I hate nutritional yeast. Sad as many vegans claim this to be one of their favs and it is used to make vegan cheese. But it is just not for me. With this vegan brie, all I could taste was the nutritional yeast so I didn’t like it. My sister and grandmother on the other hand enjoyed it – and neither of them are vegan. Go figure. If you like nutritional yeast this may be for you. If you’re like me, stay clear.
Fig & Olive Tapenade
This recipe was from a Thanksgiving cookbook and I really liked the sweet/salty combo.
These wellingtons were pretty easy to make. You just cook the veggies and then place them in the puff pastry (the pepperidge farm version is vegan!) Overall, they were so-so. I think they were a bit sweet with the squash and the port wine sauce but I was trying to dress them up. Everyone seemed to like them just fine, they just weren’t the show-stoppers I’d hoped for.
If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen this recipe or one like it. It’s taunted me for over a year – so I decided to give it a try this Thanksgiving. I had high hopes for salty, crispy, potato chip-like dish. That didn’t happen. I followed the recipe to a T and it just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t particularly bad – it just didn’t meet the picture’s expectations. Needless to say I will not be spending so much time on the mandolin to try this again in the future.
Sweet Potato Struedel
Sadly another flop We tried to veganize this cookbook recipe and we must have taken a wrong turn as our struedel topping didn’t melt. I thought we could just omit the cream but clearly that was a necessary component.
I was looking for something a bit more special than the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry package. While I really liked this, it is quite spicy. You have to really like your holiday spices for this recipe.
Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
The cake is another cookbook recipe so I can’t share but it was a pretty basic recipe I think. The frosting made the cake! I loved this frosting and added a dash of vanilla to it. Oh, and my sister did ooh and aah over this one
October 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
Welcome to Day 10 of Vegan MOFO. Today I finally have a recipe for you! Well, not as much a recipe as much an assembly – regardless it’s a winner. I’m calling it The Elvis – Elevated! Here’s why.
I was a bit surprised to learn when I googled “the Elvis sandwich” to learn that it usually is made with bacon! Yuck! This isn’t the Elvis I recall. For many years I’ve enjoyed the vegetarian version – bread, peanut butter, and banana. It’s hard to imagine it being any better but I just may have elevated the Elvis today.
I’m a big peanut butter fan. I never liked deli meats growing up (again, I think I was always meant to be vegetarian or vegan!) so my mom packed me many peanut butter sandwiches as a kid. Sometimes she’d switch it up and add marshmallows for something a little different. I don’t recall when I started adding bananas to my sandwich, but I’ve been eating the PB and banana sandwich for years.
Being such a peanut butter fan, a few friends have warned me about having too many peanuts while pregnant. Apparently it can lead to the peanut allergy some kids have. Then I read somewhere else that having nuts every day can increase your child’s chance for asthma. I don’t know if I’m buying that or the peanut butter myth – but I figure I might as well try and not have peanut butter every single day as I’d been doing. So I’ve been switching it up with almond butter here and there.
The other day I was at Whole Foods and saw Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread. I’m a big Nutella fan thanks to spending a week in Italy. As Nutella isn’t vegan, I haven’t touched the stuff in over a year. But Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread looked promising. So I decided to pony up the $10 for the jar and indulge.
Did I make a wise investment? Yes. Yes I did! The first night I tried my new goody slathered on hot toast. Mmmm. Instantly I was taken back to that week at the little Italian B&B – mornings of croissants, crusty baguettes, Nutella, and espresso. Justin’s doesn’t have quite the same rich hazelnutty flavor as I remember Nutella having – but it does have a deeply rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of nuttiness. Every few bites offers a little course salt too for a delicious surprise.
Today I figured, why stop there? Let’s take the Elvis to new hights. Toast some hearty bread, slather on the chocolate hazelnut spread, and banana slices. For a pregnant woman, this is pretty much as good as it gets.