Sweet potato breakfast

Have you ever tried a baked sweet potato for breakfast? I love making all kinds of stuffed sweet potatoes. One the favorites in our house is a south western sweet potato; I bake the sweet potatoes and then fill them with all of our favorite taco fixings.

I wanted to try something new for breakfast and I’ll admit this isn’t an original idea of mine. I saw several other vegan bloggers posting delicious pictures of their sweet potato breakfast. But maybe some of my reader don’t follow hundreds of other vegan bloggers like I do. So I tried my own and it was so good. Very filling! I thought I’d share this clever idea and maybe you’ll have something new to try. Because trying new things is good for you!

*In my recipe I give suggested toppings, but like pancakes the choices for what you want on your sweet potato are infinite.

breakfast baked potato

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato (per person)

Toppings shown:

  • Maple syrup
  • peanut butter
  • banana slices
  • blueberries
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chia seeds

Directions:

    1. Heat oven to 400° F.
    2. Pierce each sweet potato along each opposing side with a fork or a knife. Place the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    3. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Once tender take out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
    4. Once the sweet potato is cool enough to handle slice open down the center. And scrape the insides with a fork to break it up and allow the toppings to settle in the potato.
    5. Drizzle with maple syrup or agave for some extra sweetness
    6. Add your desired toppings.
    7. Enjoy!

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What friendship looks like to an introvert.

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I have always been a shy person, but I haven’t always been an introvert. I became an introvert when person after person I opened myself up to began to burn me and judge me for the things I’d say or the things they knew about me.

Moving across the country to Montana, away from all I’d ever known was especially hard. I had the same close friends since I was 2 and 5 years old, Karen and Cody. I had other friends growing up, but those two girls were my go to. So many friends come and go while you’re a kid or a teenager. Sometimes people move away, sometimes you grow apart, and unfortunately sometimes you get burned. But these two were always there for me and I hope they can say the same about me.

In Montana, I found myself in the middle of a whole new terrain, at 25 years old and not really knowing how to go out of my way to strike up new friendships.

Introverts don’t desire to have as many friends as they can possibly have. Most probably wouldn’t even want as many as ten. They desire a few intimate friendships, confidants, someone they can feel safe to be themselves with and this kind of relationship takes a lot of energy and time. I know I’ve spent months, even years keeping people at arms length while feeling out for a potential friend. All the while wondering “Can I trust this person? Will they stick around or get bored and dump me?” Introverts are typically uncomfortable with surface relationships. Small talk can be especially painful. It pains me that people probably think I don’t like them, when really I am just awkward as hell.

Allowing a person to get to know me is terrifying, but for good reason. Example, I’ve only lived in Montana for 5 years and in that short time have already been burned by multiple people. Maybe they didn’t mean to hurt me, but when I open myself up to someone it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. It’s a big deal for me and if I thought I had a friend when I really didn’t, it leaves me feeling bitter and I tend to hid away for a while to heal before I go back and give someone else a try.

It’s not all just about trusting people. Fact of the matter is, I love my animals and my hubby and 99% of the time I would rather stay in with them than be around other people. In the rare occasion I am at a party in someone’s home, I typically hang out with their pets. Animals don’t play mind games and they’re good company.

*I need to mention that not every introvert will be able to relate to my story. Everyone has their own reasons for being who they are. My husband for example is also an introvert, but he is not shy. He is simply an introvert because he doesn’t really like people. He has very high standards and a very low tolerance for certain personalities.

So what does friendship look like through the heart of this introvert?

  • Being consistent is a huge start.
  • Being included and remembered. Everyone likes to feel included, but I have spent years at a time feeling like I was invisible and could disappear and no one would ever notice.
  • Don’t assume if I’ve turned down an offer to hang out,that I don’t ever want to. Sometimes it’s scary to leave my house (did you know there are people outside?).
  • Share your interests and respect my own.
  • Spending either one on one time together or in a small group. If the group exceeds 4 I am just going to act like I am invisible and think of a way out. If we do go out with a large group, don’t forget that I am there too! If the relationship is new, don’t expect to get to know me around a large group.
  • If I ask you to do something and you turn me down several times in a row, I’m out. Asking anyone do to something is outside of my comfort zone, I can only take so much rejection before I “get the hint”.
  • If I let you into my home, you’re a shoo-in. My home is my safe place, a judgment free zone and I have welcomed you into my safe place. It’s a big fricken deal. The biggest element of friendship for this introvert is when I get to a place in our friendship where I finally feel safe enough to relax and be myself. In other words, I’ve let my guard down. If you’ve been welcomed into my home, it probably coincides with letting my guard down.

Introverts have a lot to offer in friendship. If you can be patient and understanding long enough to earn the trust of an introvert, you will be blessed with a loyal and loving confidant. Someone who fits the true meaning of a best friend.

Classic pancakes and furry children

I love foods that are versatile. It makes it really nice for meal planning when you can keep making a favorite recipe and just play around with the flavors or ingredients a little bit to keep it interesting. And what is more versatile than pancakes? There are infinite ways to eat pancakes, but like with all versatile recipes you’ve got to start with a base first.

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My hubby and I eat pancakes just about every Sunday. It’s one of my favorite times of the week. Here is my classic pancake recipe that I make most often. It is like a blank canvas, now all you have to do is decide what you want to top them with. If you need an idea or want to try something new, I added a very simple recipe for a blueberry yogurt sauce.

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Classic Pancakes (vegan) + Blueberry Sauce

Makes 9-10 with a 1/4 measuring cup for a scoop

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups flour
  • 2 TBS baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Cups nut milk
  • 2 TBS maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for the blueberry sauce:

  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 container of vanilla dairy-free yogurt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl use a sifter while adding the dry ingredients.
  2. Blend the dry ingredients then make a well in the center.
  3. Add wet ingredients to the well and whisk together with the dry ingredients.
  4. Place a frying pan on the stove at medium heat. Once heated add coconut oil or nonstick spray to the pan (REPEAT this step before every pancake).
  5. My suggested pancake scoop is a 1/4 measuring cup. For larger pancakes, use a larger cup.
  6. Pour the batter in the center of the pan. Wait 2-3 minutes, bubbles should start to appear in the batter. As soon as you see a bubble near or in the center of the pancake, it’s time to flip it. Let the other side cook for about 1 minute and it should be done.
  7. Top with desired toppings

Directions for the blueberry sauce:

  1. Add the yogurt and blueberries to a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth and pour on top of you pancakes.
  3. Enjoy!

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My Furry Children

Many people don’t know this about me, but for the sake of openness and relatability I will share. I cannot have children of my own without the help of special medication (I paused a really long time after typing that… Is this really something I want to share? Yes, I shared this for all of you struggling with infertility, you are not alone.). So aside from the fact that I already adore and respect animals, I truly consider my “pets” to be more like my children. I’d do anything for them. They are so faithful and giving. They love me unconditionally. If I am having a bad day, they are there for me. In fact they have been there for me in more ways than I could ever express. In some ways they’ve even helped save my life.

There may come a day when my hubby and I feel ready to shell out the cash to have a biological child or consider adoption, but for now we are more than happy to share our family and home with these four amazing furbabies. Allow me to introduce them.

Meet Harry Hopper

Harry Hopper

Harry came to us about a year ago and yes he is named after Harry Potter. He started his life at a petting zoo (which anyone who is familiar with rabbits knows what a traumatic experience that must have been for him.). Then he was sold to a rabbit breeder, who soon after adopted him out or sold him (idk) to a kindergarten classroom. I work at the school where he was the kindergarten class pet. He was still fairly small the first time I saw him at school, so he was exchanged quite a bit for the first year of his life. He spent quite a few months as the class pet. Then, knowing my love for animals I was approached about rabbit sitting while the teacher was out of town. I happily obliged.

We had a wonderful week, he got along with our kitties and was enjoying all the space to hop and jump around. When it was time for him to go back to school, it was expressed to me that he’d become a little more of a handful than expected and I was informed that he would be spending most of his time in his cage and weekends alone at school. This broke my heart. I happily offered to adopt Harry.

Neither me nor my husband had ever had a pet rabbit before. We were two cat people deep in a whole new terrain. Having a rabbit is a lot like having a puppy. They pee and poop everywhere, they dig at carpets, they chew on furniture, remote buttons, cords and clothes. But like puppies, they can be trained (FYI: they have to be spayed or neutered first.).

We got Harry neutered almost immediately and then started potty training shortly after. We decided “who needs a dinning room?” and my hubby built him a large 7’x5′ playpen. He’s out of his pen while we’re home to mingle with the rest of the family.

In the beginning, Harry did not like to be picked up. He would jump if he even thought I was going to pick him up and then once I would get a hold of him he would frantically fight his way out of my arms (for months I had scratches all over my arms). After several months of building a trusting relationship, I can honestly say that now Harry actually looks forward to me picking him up. We even have a morning routine, I greet him at the door of his pen every day and scoop him up. He nuzzles his face into my neck and we hug for a short while.

I love this little guy, he has taught me so much, and I am so happy to be able to give him a safe home and a family.Soaking up the sun

Meet Gimli

Gimli is the newest member of our family and yes, he is named after a dwarf from “The Lord of the Rings”. We adopted Gimli when he was just a month old. We adopted him with the hopes that he and Harry could become companions. We were concerned that Harry was feeling lonely. Nearly ten months later they still have not bonded and we have to keep them separated at all times or they will fight.

Gimli was neutered when he was 6 months old and we waited a month for his hormones to level out and then we tried to slowly introduce him to Harry. It went horribly and every attempt since has been just as ugly. Poor Harry is so submissive and patient (he so badly wants a roommate) and Gimli is just out for blood.

Gimli himself is a wonderful little rabbit. He is so sweet and loving. He’s also very clever. My hubby built him a large pen like Harrys and he has figured out at least a half a dozen ways to escape. He can also be mischievous and feisty at times, but he is learning. He’s our binkier (if you don’t know what a bunny binky is, go look it up on YouTube. It is adorable.). When it’s his turn to be able to run around the house, he’s all over the place! He loves running back and forth at top speed, got to get that exercise. But don’t take your eye’s off him! Trouble.

While it has been incredibly frustrating that he won’t bond with Harry, we’re hoping with a little maturing and time he will learn to accept Harry. I certainly won’t give up on him. *If you’ve ever bonded two rabbits successfully I would love some advise.

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Meet our twins Haylie-May & Butters

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We adopted Haylie and Butters over six years ago during our first year of marriage and believe it or not, they are from the same litter. It’s hard to put into words what these two mean to my hubby and I because they literally mean the world to us. They have been through so much with us. When we moved from New York to Montana, I refused to leave them behind, so they and my other kitty at the time (who has since passed on… ♥) made the 1700 mile road trip with me. They’ve moved six times with us, that’s nearly once per year they’ve been alive. They’ve lived in small cramped houses and they’ve lived in big nice houses. They’ve helped us through so many trying times and have even had to endure some themselves, from freezing temperatures (because of a broken heater) to numerous surgeries. There is such a bond between us I can’t gush about them enough, but I will certainly try.

Haylie-May

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Haylie-May is our little sweetie pie and chatter box and my only girl (We have to stick together.). When we brought her home for the first time she was just a little ball of poof.

Haylie has the spirit of a natural nurturer. She loves all the other animals, she gives them all kisses. She’s never scratches or gives my hubby and I attitude. She loves children, whenever we have little visitors she beelines straight for the door to greet them.

She’s only done it for me a couple of times, but she gives my hubby back messages all the time! I get so jealous, but she really has a soft spot for him. She’s a daddy’s girl. Her routine with me is to always be the first one to greet me when I come home and she’ll lay down in front of me and ask for belly rubs. Our cats are not like other cats, they LOVE belly rubs! They can’t get enough of them.

A unique characteristic about Haylie is her fluffy toes. It’s like she has hobbit feet. It is also like she is always earing socks, so this makes her kind of clumsy sometimes. When she’s running too fast she’ll skid across the floor as she tries to come to a halt. And sometimes she slips if she’s running too fast up her cat tree.

To an outsider it may seem odd to say that Haylie has a great sense of humor, but she makes me laugh on a daily basis. It’s a telepathic understanding and with just one look we both get it. She always brightens my day!

Butters

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The biggest baby in the house is Butters. No one ever told him to grow up and stop being a kitten, so he never did. He is the embodiment of innocence. As our most photogenic baby it could be misinterpreted that he is the favorite. As a mommy I do not have favorites. But there is no doubt that I am Butters favorite (hubby is in denial.), he is the biggest mommy’s boy and honors me with unyielding love and attention every day.

Butters is the most peculiar cat I have ever encountered. First of all, he has thumbs. I realize that’s a fairly common occurrence for cats, but he will actually use his thumbs to pick up toys.

When we adopted him he had a strange head tilt, that we found out soon after we brought him home, was from an unattended ear infection. With antibiotics and ear drops his head tilt eventually went away.

Butters also has a very rare condition called Stomatitis, which means he is allergic to his own teeth (roots and all). It was clearly causing him a lot of pain, so the vet recommended his teeth be removed. It was really scary and heart breaking to do, but he’s no longer in pain from it and we won’t have to worry about infections spreading into his throat. Now we call him our gummy bear.

Butters has so many quirks it’s difficult to figure out which ones to share and which to not. He is just so wonderfully odd and really uncat-like. For example, he has the heaviest feet, cats are known for their stealth quiet nature,  but you can hear Butters walking around in the next room.

More than anything, Butters loves to snuggle. I can not sit down without him crawling onto my lap within a minute or two. He can never seem to get close enough either; during weekend mornings, when we sleep in he will literally wrap his body around my head. He’s even tried to wrap himself around my face.

The secret to getting butters to fall asleep is to rub his belly. It’s a nightly ritual. He has his own bed above my pillow. He crawls into his bed when I crawl into mine and I rub his belly until he falls asleep. When we travel away from home, I’ll sleep with my hand above my head without even thinking about it, subconsciously wishing Butters was with me.

I could type on and on about how this little guy brings so much joy into our lives. He just has so much love to give and I am so blessed to be his mama.

Some more snaps of my furbabies

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Sweet Potato “BLT”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome 2018! I am so excited for my first blog post of the new year. It’s a healthier twist on an old classic, the BLT. For this recipe I’ve substituted bacon with sweet potato and the results are savory! Whether your are trying to start the new year with healthier choices, trying to give up meat, or even just looking for a new recipe for your meatless Mondays. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try. It’s easy, quick and most importantly it’s delicious!

Sweet Potato “BLT”

Makes 2-3 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/4″ slices

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS of tamari
  • 1 TBS vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 TBS Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch of salt

Other Ingredients for assembling you “BLT”:

  • bread of your choice
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • onion
  • avocado
  • vegan mayo (Can be found easily in any grocery store recommendations *not sponsored* JUST MAYO & VEGENAISE)
  • Mustard

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º
  2. Slice the sweet potato
  3. Whisk all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl
  4. Cover baking pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray
  5. Place the sweet potato slices on the baking sheet
  6. Brush the potato slices with the sauce, then flip them over and brush the other side
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and flip them over (brush with more sauce if they’re looking too dry.).
  8. Place them back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes
  9. For extra crispy sweet potatoes: After they’re done baking in the oven, toss them in a frying pan until they are slightly brown and crispy.
  10. Assembly sandwich with desired fixings.

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New Year means new chapter

Our Christmas season was very quiet. We decided to stay home for the holidays to save some money. It was a very difficult decision and I hope in the future I won’t have to choose between family or money.

Hubby, Butters, and IMy hubby and I have lived in Montana for nearly five and a half years now. We’ve done a lot of growing, living so far from home and family. Our marriage was still a baby when we moved to Montana, the experiences we’ve faced here could be a challenge to even the most seasoned of marriages, but I am so thankful for these challenges that have helped us build a stronger marriage.

It’s been difficult to face that I needed Montana (I have been homesick for New York more often than not), I needed it to help me grow individually and my marriage needed it so that we could learn to be a proper team. But I can’t help but feel like this chapter of our lives may be coming to an end soon. I certainly find myself more than eager to find out what’s next for us. And I am far less eager to miss anymore Holidays with our families. I have learned my first decade as an “adult” that life doesn’t go in the directions you expect or even hope for, that being said, I do carry high expectations for 2018 and I won’t sit around waiting for my dreams to fall into my lap. It’s time to make shit happen!

So on a lighter note (I can be so intense sometimes) here are some highlights from our Christmas.

Christmas eve Tradition: It’s a wonderful life and pizza (*Daiya did not sponsor this, I just really love their food and love to share my favorite things!). I have watched It’s a wonderful life every Christmas for as far back as I can remember and I cry every single time, without fail!

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Christmas morning we had traditional pancakes with coconut whipped cream on top. Then throughout the day we grazed on a Mexican feast. I had taco soup all warmed in the crock-pot, chickpea/avocado taquitos, mini tacos and of course chips, salsa and guacamole. I decided on a Mexican feast when I was looking for a pick me up, because I was sad about not being in New York. What I ended up with was a new Christmas tradition. Forget all that old outdated traditional Christmas food, a Mexican fiesta is where it’s at for sure!

Over all it was a pretty lazy day, we even ended it by watching the original IT movie (Not very Christmasy). I won’t complain, I love lazy days with my cats and my hubby. I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season! Here’s to an amazing New Year from our family to yours, Happy New Year!

 

Gingerbread Pancakes

I have been talking about holiday traditions quite a bit lately. I think about it a lot this time of year. My husband and I haven’t been able to go back home to New York for Christmas the last couple of years. I miss my family and I miss all of our holiday traditions.

Well We won’t be making it to New York for this Christmas either. I could easily feel sad about it, but my house is all decorated bright and cheery and my husband has finally started watching Christmas movies with me, after 6 years of marriage. So instead I find myself wondering what are some traditions hubby and I can enjoy for years to come?

How about these gingerbread pancakes on Christmas morning? Or breakfast for dinner on Christmas eve? They are so yummy and sweet you may not even need syrup, but they would be really good with some dairy-free whipped cream. If you like this recipe, remember to snap a picture and tag me. Let me know what you think.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to hear about them!

Gingerbread pancakes

Gingerbread Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups of Flour
  • 2 TBS of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Cups of nut milk
  • 2 TBS of molasses
  • 2 tsp of Vanilla

Directions:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients and spices together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Make a well in the center.
  2. Add nut milk, molasses, & vanilla to the well. Whisk and blend everything together.
  3. Place a frying pan on the stove at medium/low heat. Coat the pan in either cooking spray or coconut oil (repeat this step before each pancake.).
  4. Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop the pancake batter from the bowl to the pan. Flip the pancake when the center starts to bubble.
  5. Serve warm with desired toppings.

Gingerbread Pancakes

 

Heirloom brown bread and a winter wonderland

Thanksgiving is over. Now the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations begins. I am sad to say that my hubby and I will have to spend our holidays in Montana this season. It’s never an easy decision to make, but when you live 1700 miles away from family these hard choices will often present themselves.

I was blessed with a lovely childhood, I do not take that for granted and I have tried to carry that with me into adulthood and marriage (My journey hasn’t been as effortless as my parents made it look. Though I know there were sacrifices of their own that I did not see.). My family has so many traditions, some classic like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” the same night we decorate the tree; and some silly ones as well, like always having to stop at the same gas station for coffee and cocoa on our way to grandmas house Christmas day. It’s a cherished lifetime of invaluable memories and instilled in me what really happens when you have traditions. What happens is consistency and quality time, which produces fond memories, which creates hope and excitement for the next time around. I can remember a few of my favorite presents from my childhood, but my fondest memories, the ones I’ve tried to recreate in my own home are the ones that involve my family being together.

A tradition my mom and I have together is baking. She would make several pounds of gingerbread dough and we would decorate dozens of little gingerbread men to share with friends and family. Dad was banned from cookie decorating… I don’t think I need to explain why.

One of our favorite baked goods that’s always on our table during the holiday season is brown bread. It’s basically a loaf of ginger bread. My mom got the recipe from my great grandma Tiffany (One of the most amazing women I have ever met.). I have managed to successfully carry this tradition on into my own household. My husband loves brown bread! I recently looked up the origin of this recipe and was surprised to find that it was created in Boston Massachusetts and in that part of the U.S. it is known as “Boston Brown Bread”. However, the most surprising fact about it’s origin, is that it was originally made in a tin can! It can even still be found sold in a tin can in Boston markets.

I am sharing this delicious recipe with you. It’s very sweet. A slice could be eaten on it’s own with some Earth Balance butter spread on top. It can be served with nice cream. Or served during dinner, which is the way we’ve always served it. It’s origin story said it was always served with baked beans.

Here is my family recipe for Holiday Brown Bread. Read on to hear about our long weekend in the beautiful mountains of Alberta and British Columbia Canada.

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Brown Bread

1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 C of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 C of sugar
  • 1/2 C of molasses
  • 1 Flax egg (1tbs of ground flax seed and 2 1/2 tbs of water)
  • 1 tbs of vegetable shortening
  • 1 C of boiling water

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven at 325º F
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl mix together dry ingredients then stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  6. Take out and let cool.
  7. Serve with dinner, with baked beans, or with your favorite nice cream. *Or you can sneak a slice every couple of hours until you’ve devoured the whole thing like my husband does.

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A winter wonderland

Our adventures in a wintery Canada

Happy snow bunnies

The mountains have a mystical way of drawing us to them. Last weekend my hubby and I venture north to Calgary, Alberta in Canada. We stayed the night in the beautiful city, I miss city life. We had a great place right in the heart of it. What a treasure to look outside and see the skyline all lit up at night.

The next morning we met up with our good Canadian friend and ventured out to the mountains of Banff National Park.

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Banff upper springs

Our first day we walked along a trail just taking the majestic view. We also visited a protected hot spring with an endangered specie of snail only known to Banff Canada. Later in the evening we went swimming in Upper natural hot springs. It was about 30 degrees outside, but the hot spring was about 110 degrees. It was so relaxing.

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The next morning was very cloudy and snowy. We could barely see the mountains anymore. We ventured to the stunning Lake Louis. We couldn’t see the mountains and the lake was frozen and covered with snow. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. The foliage and graceful snow fall  was creating a fairytale beauty all it’s own. We walked along a trail (That I can only assume went around the lake) just admiring the splendor.

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After enjoying the snow for a little while we headed to Emerald Lake in British Columbia. It was still snowing pretty hard there as well, another winter wonderland

We stayed at Emerald Lake Lodge, which I found out later on, that the whole lodge is basically an island in the middle of the lake. I didn’t realize at the time because the lake was frozen over and covered with snow.  At night Emerald Lake transformed into a real life Thomas Kinkaid painting. It was absolutely stunning. Hubby and I spent some time just wandering the little village in awe.

Emerald lake lodge, British Columbia

We Went to bed with no real knowledge that when we woke up the next morning the giant mountains would be smiling down on us. It was like waking up in a new place, with a new kind of beauty.

I felt so humble staring at the vastness of this magnificent mountain. I need to find out it’s true name, but in my mind I keep referring to it as “Grandfather Mountain” because of the respect its presence commands. A stroll through the woods

 

Did I mention I love mountains? Before breakfast, even before coffee, hubby and I eagerly got dressed and headed back out into the snow like a couple of kids.

I don’t know how long we were out there walking around, but its a walk in the snow with my love that I’ll never forget.

Now that the mountains were back out and the sky was blue again, we decided to go back to Lake Louis and she did not disappoint.

Lake Louis

We headed back to Banff’s downtown village for brunch and then said goodbye to the mountains and in Calgary we said goodbye to our good Canadian friend. Then we ventured homeward and reunited with our cherished furbabies.

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The mountains are always calling. They have taken a piece of me and they know it. Now that I love them, they will never let me go. Something happens to me when I am standing in the presence of a mountain. Peace washes over me like a warm bath. I want to run away into the mountains and live in peace.

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Thanksgiving ciabatta stuffing

Winter is here. Winter comes early in this part of the U.S. and it stays for a long time. Some days it can be difficult to shake the winter blues. But it helps to try to see the beauty in things around us. Sometimes winter makes it easy to see the beauty, like the other morning when a thick fog rolled into town and frosted everything from the blades of grass to the tip tops of the trees. I wish I could have gone for a long walk that day to capture some truly magical moments, but alas my day job did not allow it. I did sneak this picture real quick on my way out to my car.

Frosty morning

How about the beauty in those cold, cozy mornings at home? I love a quiet morning with a beautiful wintery sight out my window, nowhere to go and a warm drink in my hand.

You know another beautiful thing about winter? Comfort food. One of the ultimate comfort foods is definitely stuffing. I don’t want to brag but I make awesome stuffing! I’ve had so many people ask me for this recipe after they’ve had a taste and when I have Thanksgiving with family, it’s always a must that I make the stuffing. So skip the boxed stuff and try something new that’ll be a real hit at your Thanksgiving table this year.

If you’re concerned about having yet another dish to prepare, I kept the instructions pretty simple. And I don’t recommend you go with another bread, stick with the ciabatta, it’s the perfect stuffing bread.

Thanksgiving stuffing

Ciabatta and Herb stuffing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large loaf of ciabatta bread cut into small cubes
  • 2TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 Celery stalk diced
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 Cups of Vegetable stock
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped sage
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped parsley
  • salt
  • black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 375º
  2. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook until the onion is transparent and carrots are soft. Once cooked through, transfer to a glass bowl.
  3. Add stock, sage, rosemary, parsley, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Whisk together.
  4. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with non stick spray or coat in coconut oil.
  5. Add ciabatta cubes to the baking dish.
  6. Pour the stock mixture over the ciabatta bread. stir to coat the bread pieces.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until it turns golden on top. *I like mine crispy on top so I leave it in a little longer.
  8. Remove and enjoy!

Thanksgiving stuffing

 

Rosemary mashed potatoes & roasted garlic broccoli 

Happy early Thanksgiving! I am devoting this months blog posts to traditional Thanksgiving food with modified recipes for those who want a little bit more from their Thanksgiving dinner.

Tatters

One of this weeks recipes is for a Thanksgiving staple. Mashed Potatoes. It wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving meal without mashed potatoes. You could ask a many number of people how they prefer their potatoes and could end up with a different answer for all of them. Lumpy, smooth, creamy, garlicy, buttery, ect. The great thing about mashed potatoes, they are so versatile! I love flavor and this recipe is loaded with it.

I use lots of rosemary in this recipe. For me it wouldn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving without the smell of rosemary wafting through the house. I find as I get older holidays become more and more about nostalgia and recreating those magical times when I was a carefree child. When I smell rosemary in my home I can close my eyes and see myself as a kid sitting on the couch, watching the Thanksgiving day parade, with my mom in the kitchen working tirelessly to create her dinner masterpieces.

Chopped rosemary

Sadly, I haven’t been home to New York for Thanksgiving for a couple of years now. But the last time I was home I made the mashed potatoes, this recipe, and it was quite popular. I hope you enjoy it as well.

I also added my favorite recipe for roasted broccoli in this post as well. I don’t associate mashed potatoes without broccoli. To me it makes as much sense as peanut butter and jelly. We love this simple recipe and I make it all the time. In fact, I made it a couple weeks ago as a side dish for another dinner, well the broccoli was finished cooking before everything else and between my husband and I we kept picking at. By the time dinner was done there was no broccoli left to serve on the side. It’s so delicious!

Thanksgiving mashed potatoes

Rosemary mashed potatoes

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

Prep time: 15 minutes (Not including chopping ingredients)

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 Russet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 – 4 cups of unsweetened nut milk
  • 4 Tbs of vegan butter
  • 2 Tbs of finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp of fresh minced garlic
  • 1 – 2 tsp of pink salt (to taste)
  • sprinkle of pepper to taste
  • Cappers for topping

Instructions:

  1. Boil the chopped potatoes on medium high heat until they are soft enough for a fork to stab though. Pour potatoes into a strainer then transfer the potatoes to a large bow. Use a potato masher or a large fork to mash the potatoes. Mash to your desired consistency. I don’t mind lumpy potatoes, but for this recipe I mashed them down smooth.
  2. Once the potatoes are mashed transfer them to a large stew pot. Turn the heat onto medium/low, add 1 cup of milk to start and the butter. Stir in the milk and the butter. As the potatoes heat up you will need to continue to add more milk until your potatoes have reached a nice smooth, creamy consistency.
  3. Once the potatoes are creamy, stir in the rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Taste test and adjust as needed. I like mine extra garlicy myself.
  4. When the potatoes are heated through scoop them in to a serving bowl. Make a small shallow well at the top and add the cappers, or just sprinkle the top with cappers. *For extra pizzazz garnish with a couple sprigs of rosemary.

*If your mashed potatoes are done before other Thanksgiving dishes are ready for serving, wait to transfer to the serving bowl and cover the pot with lid or foil.

Potatoes and broccoli

Roasted Garlic Broccoli

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 – 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 large heads of broccoli
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic ( 2 tsp of garlic powder would work too)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. preheat oven to 425° and lightly coat a baking pan with non stick spray or olive oil
  2. Chop the head of the broccoli off of the stem, cut florets into small pieces
  3. place the broccoli florets into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 Tbs of olive oil, minced garlic, and salt. stir with a spatula until the florets are coated.
  4. Add the broccoli florets to the baking pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Check after 15 minutes, making sure to flip over the florets. They are cooked, once they’re tender and have only started to brown a little on top.
  5. For serving, place the broccoli florets into a serving bowl.
  6. Enjoy!

Potatoes

A bowl full of sunshine

lemon ginger smoothie bowl

I used to hate photographing the color yellow… Because, truthfully I didn’t know how. It’s a tricky color and if you’re not familiar with how to play light off of yellow it can create unflattering pictures.

I would even avoid creating recipes if I new the outcome was going to be yellow. But like everything else, it’s all about practice practice practice! I am by no mean saying I’ve mastered yellow, why just the other day, I attempted to photograph a lime that was way more yellow in the center than it should have been and it totally threw me off! I ended up deleting all the pictures.

A helpful hint when you’re attempting to photograph something yellow, especially food. Add contrasting colors like blue or purple; it helps bring life to the yellow and makes it pop.

There’s been a few occasions when I have collaborated a recipe and a photograph and I truly felt like I had mastered the color yellow that day. One of those instances is my “bowl of sunshine”, a Turmeric banana smoothie bowl; which is my recipe today.

Even though Turmeric is a really old spice and has been used for centuries in homeopathic recipes, it’s almost like it’s been rediscovered as of late. It has so many health benefits plus when you add it to your food or drink it bring out this gorgeous golden yellow color.

Turmeric Banana Smoothie Bowl

tuneric banana smoothie bowl

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2c of frozen mango
  • 1c of almond milk
  • 1tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1 scoop of Vega protein powder (Not sponsored, Just my preferred protein powder)

*I also added a scoop of super food powder

  • Your choice of toppings. I used Blueberries & almonds.

Directions:

-blend everything together in a blender, pour in a bowl and add desired toppings

Enjoy!

surprise

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My hubby surprised me in the sweetest way the other day.

For about two weeks he let me know he had a surprise coming in the mail for me. His hint was “paperless” and for two weeks he’d look at me and say “paperless”. Then the other day he came home from work with a big goofy grin on his face and a sparkle in his eye. He handed me a package and said “surprise”. It was a brand new American flag. I’ll be honest, I was pretty baffled. He said he got it so I could use it for a background in my pictures. How thoughtful, but I was still pretty thrown for a loop.

I asked how his hint paperless related to the flag. He said “because it’s not made of paper, it’s fabric.”

“Huh?” was my reaction

I kept asking if he was serious. I wanted to be grateful if this was my real surprise, but it was so…. odd. He excitedly grabbed the flag and ran to bedroom to open it; he wanted to see how big it was. I went into the bedroom and my hubby was sitting on the bed smiling with the flag laid out. “What do you think?” he asked.

Still perplexed I answered “Oh it’s nice.” Then our kitty Butters, who loves to hide under blankets, crawled under the flag. I lifted the flag to take a peek at him and sitting besides Butters was a brand new camera. I was shocked and delighted!

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I have really been enjoying food photography and have been talking for months about getting a real camera (other than my phone). My hubby can be very thoughtful, but more often than not, hints are wasted on him. This was certainly one of the most thoughtful things he’s ever done for me and I just love how Butters helped to surprise me as well.

This last weekend we went on a date, a movie and Thai food. I brought my camera along to play with and hopefully capture some fun moments.

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Isn’t funny how you think you can know everything about a person and they can still manage to surprise you?

 

Sweet and Sour or Bittersweet?

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The reality of trying to maintain a blog and active blogger Instagram while working a full-time day job is becoming increasingly difficult. It is especially difficult because I rely on natural light for my photography and the days are quickly growing darker earlier and earlier everyday. So by the time I am done making dinner, the sun is gone, along with my chance at a decent picture.

Then my blog depends on how much I have left in me after I am done with a long day or a long week at work. I love food, food photography, and most of all I love sharing it with you! There’s so much negativity on the internet and I feel like my small contribution puts something positive back into the universe; whether it be a pretty picture or a delicious recipe to enjoy.

I need to get better at finding balance, which is difficult when you need your day job…. I remember when I was growing up hearing adults advise choosing a career in something you love to do. I didn’t quite grasp the concept at the time. I was very distracted by different kinds of dreams and ultimately left directionless. There is so much I love to do, from painting, music and food. I had options, why didn’t I pursue them when it would have been easier for me? It’s one of the reasons I started my food blog. I wanted to attempt to pursue one of my passions and see how far I could take it. This week I definitely hit a bump in the road and was tested. It was rough and so disheartening to see my blog take a hit because of it. But here I am attempting to get back on my feet. I love my blog and I love sharing it with you.

So let me continue to share one of my passions with you… This weeks recipe is my husband’s favorite meal,  Sweet and Sour Fritters.

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Sweet & Sour Fritters

Makes 4 servings

Fritters: 20 minutes prep –  20 minutes to bake

Sweet and Sour: 20 minutes to prepare/cook

Recipe Notes:

  • If you want to make this meal as quickly as possible, instead of making your own fritters, there are a lot of great store-bought meatless “meatballs” options. You can find them in almost any store in the vegetarian section of the freezer isle. 
  • If you make the fritters, make them first and while they are baking in the oven start the sweet and sour sauce.

Fritter Ingredients: (12 – 15 fritters)

  • 1 flax egg (1 TBS of ground flaxseed mixed with 2.5 TBS of water)
  • 3 TBS of olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1/3 c of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 – 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans (strained and rinsed)

Sweet and Sour Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS cornstarch
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 – 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks
  • 1/3 c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 green bell pepper – chopped
  • 2 cups of white rice (We love Basmati!)

Fritter Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º and prep a non-stick baking pan
  2. In a food processor add the flax egg, minced garlic, panko, salt, and 1 TBS of the olive oil. Pulse until the mixture has blended together.
  3. Add the garbanzo beans to the processor. Mix on high, scraping down the edges as needed. Blend until the consistency is like a paste. If the mixture is really dry add another teaspoon or so of olive oil.
  4. Scoop 1 TBS of the paste at a time and form it into a ball. 1.5 TBS for large fritters. 
  5. Heat (medium/low heat) 2 TBS of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the fritters and sauté them for about 5 minutes or until slightly browned, making sure to roll them and turn them.
  6. Put the sauteed fritters on the prepared baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Check them after 15 miuntes, if they are firm to the touch , they are done.
  7. Remove the fritters and allow them to cool. They will firm up some more while they are cooling.

Sweet & Sour Instructions:

  1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the cornstartch, brown sugar, pinneapples (with the pinneapple juice), apple cidar vinegar, and soy sauce. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into a skillet set on medium heat. (NOTE: If you are using frozen store bought meatless “meatballs” add them to the skillet with the mixture.)
  4. Add the chopped green pepper to the skillet, set the heat to medium/ low and cover. Stir every couple of minutes. Once the peppers are dark green (NOTE: If you’re using store bought “meatballs”, check that the center is cooked through.) the mixture is done cooking.
  5. To serve, add rice to a plate, top the rice with fritters, and then with a large spoon or ladel pour the sauce and green peppers over the fritters and rice.
  6. Enjoy!

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A day in Canada

One of my great passions is art. I have a serious need to paint. I love it so much, but the need is real. Something about it is a big release for me and if I go to long time without painting, I find myself growing depressed. I plan to share my own art on here from time to time.

This summer when my parents were visiting me and my hubby, we took them to Regina Canada for the day. I love visiting Regina for so many reasons, but one of my favorites is all the art they have. We visited the MacKenzie art gallery and saw the Alex Janvier display. His work is incredible!

Here are some of my favorite pieces.

Screenshot_20170806-184211While we were there we discovered an all vegetarian/vegan restaurant called The Hunter Gatherer. You’ll never find anything like that in the rural prairies of eastern Montana, so needless to say I was pretty excited! We got tofu scramble breakfasts and maple tempeh “bacon”. Everything was delicious! I can’t wait to go back.

I love finding new places to explore and new things to do. With 3 of my biggest passions rolled into one; family, art, and food, This was a perfect day!

 

Grandma’s Zucchini bread

My family is everything to me. And I have been immensely blessed by the women in my family, they have instilled so many treasured values in my life. I was a pen pal with my great grandma from my childhood into adulthood. I’ve also been a pen pal with my grandma since I was a little kid; which has been exceedingly therapeutic since I moved so far away from her. They helped me appreciate the art of letter writing and sending cards. My mom has passed down recipes to me that she received from her mom, that grandma received from her own mother and so forth. Generations of women taking care of each other.

One of those cherished recipes is Zucchini bread. I remember my friend’s mother bringing zucchini from her garden so my mom could make her some loaves of our family’s zucchini bread. My mom got the recipe from her grandma and now she has passed it on to me. This was a very delicate recipe for me to modify. I didn’t want to alter it too much because then it wouldn’t be my family’s recipe anymore. All I did was switch from chicken eggs to flax eggs. Then added a healthier oil option; from vegetable oil to coconut oil. Everything else is original and just as delicious as I remember it.

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Zucchini Bread Recipe (vegan)

Serving: 2 loaves        Bake time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 flax eggs (3tbsp of ground flax-seed mixed with 6-7tbs of water, set for 10 minute)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 cups of shredded zucchini
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder

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Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degree
  2. Grease two loaf pans
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flax eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla
  4. Stir the shredded zucchini in with the sugar mix
  5. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
  6. Using a sifter, sift the dry mixture over of the wet mixture and mix them together
  7. Split the batter between the two pans
  8. Bake for 1 hour (check the center with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it’s done)
  9. Remove from the oven and let it cool down in the pan.

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