Pineapple Smoothie Bowl

It’s summer time! I have really been looking forward to summer, warm weather, green foliage, beautiful flowers, tan skin, gorgeous sunsets, and most of all summer food!

What I wasn’t prepared for was not having any new summer recipe ideas. Fortunately summer is full of fun inspiration and after a great cup of coffee on a lovely Saturday morning I was able to create a whole list of new ideas, yay!

One of my other passions outside of food is painting. Painting is probably the most therapeutic activity for me. I have been spending a lot of time working on a painting recently. It’s theme is the ocean. To help keep my creativity flowing I have been listening to a lot of Bob Marley and playing beach scene videos on YouTube. It has been such a peaceful escape and now the vibe is flowing into my passion for food.

This weeks recipe was not only inspired by the beginning of summer but also by that perfect day at the beach.

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Pineapple Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients:

  • One pineapple
  • 2 cups pineapple (Frozen is best)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tbs chia seed

Suggested toppings:

  • mango
  • blueberries
  • kiwi
  • dragon fruit

Directions:

  1. Slice the pineapple horizontally in front of the stem. Start carving the pineapple into a bowl leaving a 1/2″ thick rim.
  2. For an extra fresh smoothie, freeze the pineapple innards before blending them.
  3. Add all the ingredients to a high power blender and blend.
  4. Pour the ingredients into the pineapple bowl.
  5. Add toppings and enjoy!

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Thank you to those of you who have been following my blog. I really appreciate the support and kind words that inspire me to keep going. If you haven’t had a chance to check out my “About me” page, click the picture below and allow me to introduce myself.

On the shore of Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

 

Lentil Falafel marinara subs

Falafel can be eaten in many forms. One of my favorite ways to eat it (and this weeks recipe) is in a marinara sub. When I make falafel I like to make sure I make extra so I have left overs for easy throw together meals.

You can have it in salad, in a sandwich, or in pasta. What is your favorite way to eat falafel. I’d love some new ideas!

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Lentil Falafel Marinara Subs

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked lentils (rinsed, cooked according to packaging)
  • 2 TBS cilantro
  • jalapeño seeded and chopped (Optional: for extra spice)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • Italian seasoning (1tsp basil, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp parsley)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 – 6 TBS flour
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • favorite marinara
  • Dairy/egg free sub rolls (Most, if not all bakeries have them)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º and grease a baking sheet.
  2. Add all the ingredients except the flour to a food processor. Pulse until you have a paste like consistency.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the flour one tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture to be dry enough to handle so it doesn’t stick to your hands.
  4. Use a 2 TBS measuring spoon to scoop out the mixture. Shape it into a ball and place on the baking sheet. The mixture should make about a dozen falafel balls.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until they start to turn golden colored. *While the falafel is baking heat the marinara sauce in a sauce pot on the stove top.
  6. Take them out of the oven and begin assembling. Place falafel on a sub-roll and ladle the sauce over the falafel. *You can purchase dairy-free mozzarella cheese or even a dairy-free Parmesan cheese. I personally like to grind up cashews and sprinkle it over top.

*I also enjoy this falafel recipe with spaghetti. It’s great for adding protein any Italian meal

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Mexican Cauliflower

This is the year that winter decided it didn’t want to leave. No matter how much we kick and scream for it to go away, it continues to show us who the boss really is. I know I am not alone in the struggle, I am prone to seasonal depression. Some years I am not even safe in the summer time, and it has been a real struggle to keep my head “above water” these past few weeks. That is why it is so important to keep my thoughts distracted from the negativity. I am working on a couple of art projects, I try to keep my home clean (clutter and dirty dishes make me anxious), my hubby and I are planning a cross-country move in a few months, and of course I have food. Oh ,how I enjoy good homemade food. No more stews and chilies, I am ready for summer recipes! So I am going to pretend that it’s not really icky outside and focus on my favorite summer time recipes and hopefully come up with some new ones!

Mexican cauliflower is another favorite from my childhood. Anything Mexican has been and always will be a big hit with me. Mexican food doesn’t have it’s seasons, it is appropriate all year round, but I can’t help feeling “summery” about food that comes from such a warm and tropical place.

My mom made this recipe all the time when I was a kid. With a few tweaks and an added spice here and there, I am really excited to enjoy this amazing meal again as an adult. It’s also important to note that this meal is very hubby approved.

*Scroll past the recipe to read more. I share my insights and realizations on something I am most passionate about.

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Mexican Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • One large head of cauliflower (with the greens removed and the stem trimmed down so the cauliflower lays flat)
  • 2 cups salsa (My own recipe is below)
  • 8oz of vegan cheddar or pepper-jack cheese
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbs of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For serving:

  • Avocado
  • tortilla chips

Salsa Ingredients & Directions:

  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can of Mexi style lime and cilantro diced tomatoes
  • one handful of cilantro
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 2 tbs of sliced jalapeño
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  1. Place cilantro, minced garlic, and jalapeño in a food processor and pulse until the cilantro is very fine
  2. Add the canned tomatoes and spices. Pulse until all the ingredients are blended. Adjust the flavor if you need to and done.

Mexican Cauliflower Directions:

  1. Steam the cauliflower until it is tender, but not so much that it is falling apart. My favorite way to steam vegetables is to use my steamer basket in a large pot.
  2. While the cauliflower is steaming, make the salsa (if you are making it from scratch) directions above. Also, in a large mixing bowl combine the cheese, panko crumbs, cilantro and spices. Shake up the bowl or stir with a spoon to blend and coat everything together.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a baking dish (I used and 8×8 dish)
  4. When the cauliflower is done steaming (I poke mine with a knife or a fork to check the tenderness) let it cool for about 5 minutes before you transfer it to a baking dish. I used my 8×8 baking dish. Taking care not to burn yourself transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish.
  5. Pour about 2 cups of salsa over the cauliflower. Use a rubber spatula to spread the salsa around the cauliflower so it is completely covered. Then take handfuls of the cheese mixture and coat the cauliflower with it. I find it is easier to just use my hands for this part. It’s ok if salsa and cheese mix fall to the bottom of the pan, it’ll be good for dipping later.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes. The cheese mixture is supposed to turn a light golden color and be a little crispy. When done let it cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
  7. There are many options for serving. We enjoy eating it with tortilla chips, avocado and a little extra salsa, but you can serve this in tacos, burritos, over mexican rice, ect.

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Shared thoughts:

“Insight is an experience of the truth that cannot be simply given to another person in the way that one may communicate ideas or beliefs. Insight is spontaneous and has the nature of a gift. It is surprising when it comes and yet obvious. It is joyful and yet calm.” – Lawrence Freeman “The Good Heart”

I am currently reading “The Good Heart, A Buddhist perspective on the teachings of Jesus”, and when I read the passage above it was like it was jumping right off of the page. This passage articulately communicated what I have only recently begun to learn about the emotional connection to becoming a vegan.

Making the choice to be a vegan has to be an emotional one. I know a lot of people who will not like that statement, but it is true. Anyone I’ve ever known who has decided to be a vegetarian or a vegan for any other reason other than the welfare of animals has ALWAYS “fallen of the wagon” so to speak. I have to note: I am not speaking for everyone in the world who has given up meat and bi-products, but I can absolutely say that for the people I know, this is true and there are many of them. Veganism is not just about diet, it’s about life.

So let me rephrase, making the choice to be a TRUE vegan has to be an emotional one. It has to hurt. That means tapping into a part of yourself that is so deep, that you can finally make the connection between the faceless meat on the plate and the animal that was killed to be there. You can never look at meat as food again. That means completely rewiring your way of life and for many people, that is too uncomfortable to even fathom.

I would go as far as equating it to a spiritual experience. Once you’ve turned that part of your brain on, that gets switched off through conditioning while you’re growing up, it’s a little like waking up with new vision. You see the world and the other beings we share it with, in a whole new way. As soon as the switch turns back on, there’s no question anymore of “how am I going to give up meat?” Or “how am I going to give up cheese?” The question I hear the most is “why didn’t I do this sooner?”

Before I make my next statement, I want to be clear, I 100% support animal rights activists. I think they are some of the boldest and bravest people on the planet and I admire them greatly.

You can’t force people to care. You can help them try to make the connection, but it has to be something they discover on their own. I feel at this point it is important to refer back to my opening quote, “Insight is an experience of the truth that cannot be simply given to another person in the way that one may communicate ideas or beliefs. Insight is spontaneous and has the nature of a gift. It is surprising when it comes and yet obvious. It is joyful and yet calm.

Those closest to me don’t want to know, they don’t want to acknowledge the suffering that happens. I have shared with them all that is wrong with meat and bi-products. I have proven to them how easy and delicious it is to make vegan meals. But they refuse. Even though I have this blog and I spend hours, sometimes even days creating an all vegan recipe, my parents will still add meat to them. I have never been the kind of person to shove my lifestyle in someone else’s face. When a person feels shoved their response will almost always be to shove back. I have always recognized it as a personal choice. I wish I could get more people to care, but people do not appreciate having their way of life and their comfortable routine disrupted.

Q: What is the difference between a dog and a pig? A: Your perception.

Every culture is conditioned to believe that animals are here to meet our needs. We are not born with this mindset in place. Just look up kids who don’t want to eat meat on the internet. There are so many videos and stories of children crying because they’ve realized that what is on their plate was once a living thing. There are also videos of children crying over their live chickens that mom and dad are about to kill. Children know better. They haven’t been calloused and brainwashed by cultural norms. They are still able to make the connection from one living being to another.

One of the saddest things I ever witnessed personally was when a little boy, I used to babysit, wanted to bring his cat inside from the rain and his parents scolded him and told him how disgusting it was. They made him throw his cat back outside in the rain storm. Here was this sweet, thoughtful, innocent child just trying to do a kindness for another living being, probably someone he loved, and here were his parents, calloused and unthoughtful of not only their “family pet”, but of their child as well. Think of the damage their words/actions have caused. Will he think twice that next time he wants to help someone? Will it be so bad that one day he’ll see an injured animal and not think enough of it to stop and help?

Then there are people who say they are animal lovers. Let’s be clear, if there is meat on your plate, you are not an animal lover. You may love cats, dogs, or cute forest critters, but if you can’t distinct living beings as equals you don’t love animals. Humans pride themselves on having higher consciousness and yet, they are tremendously unaware of the parts of thier mind that are shut off. All animals, like humans, know fear and feel pain. They also know happiness and comfort. Through childhood people are conditioned to forget this about animals whether they wanted to or not. Why? Because that’s the way we’ve always done it (My least favorite phrase on the planet.).

Eating meat is a form of intolerance, a bold phrase, I know. But allow me to define intolerance and then I’ll explain. Intolerance is the unwillingness to accept views, beliefs or behaviors that differ from one’s own. Animals have their own languages and behaviors and because of lack of understanding and tolerance, humans are under the impression that that gives them the right to use and abuse animals. If you don’t belive that, just look at the way we treat fellow humans we don’t understand. At the core of all intolerance is apathy.

I would like to point out, that I never once said that all people who eat meat are bad. Some of the nicest people I know and love eat meat. I am trying to convey that to become a true vegan (a real animal lover), you have to tap into the part of your brain, even your heart, that finally grasps the understanding that a cow wants to be happy and left to take care of her child as much a dog with puppies, that a chicken does not want to die just as you do not wish to die. Your perception will change and you will finally see that animals are not here to feed us, cloth us, or entertain us. They are sharing this world with us. Just as you would want the suffering of a fellow man to end, you can now recognize the mass suffering of animals and want it to end. Once you’ve made that connection food will never look the same.

“Insight is an experience of the truth that cannot be simply given to another person in the way that one may communicate ideas or beliefs.” I have just shared my own insights, my realized truths about what it takes to become a true vegan. I hope it spoke to you in a positive way, but like I said from the begining, it is very much like a spiritual experience. It’s personal and it’s exceptional, but you have to find it deep within.

Cornish Pasties, a timeless treat

What is a Cornish Pasty? The pasty (/’pa:sti/) is a traditional baked pastry and it is so versatile the possibilities are virtually endless. This recipe is my favorite way to fill a pasty, but I have also filled them with pie filling for a special personalized treat.

The Cornish Pasty gets its name from its origin, Cornwall, United Kingdom. But it wouldn’t take much work to find that most cultures all over the world have their own version of “The Pasty”. That is because it’s inexpensive and goes a long way.

So one day I brought some leftover pasties to work for lunch. A coworker was very intrigued by them and told me how a century ago Montana coal miners would bring pasties on the job with them. Coal miners did not make much money, so pasties were the ideal meal. Then more recently I was speaking with a co-worker who spent time living in South Korea and he said they have their own version of the pasty as well. It’s fascinating to see how cultures spread out all over the world have shared the same idea without ever even knowing it.

My Cornish Pasty recipe hits straight at the heart of comfort food. It’s filled with potatoes and freshly chopped vegetables. They can be eaten however you wish, there is no right or wrong way. I love ranch dressing (specifically by the brand “JUST”); I put it on a lot, and I enjoy dipping my pasties in ranch. The last time I made these, my incredible hubby found a recipe for a homemade vegetable gravy and HE made it!!! It was phenomenal! If I had the link I would share it, but you can probably google “vegan gravy recipes” and find yourself a good one.

In my recipe, I also share two different styles you could use to seal your pasties, the spiral (my personal favorite) takes a little practice, and “the fork” (I don’t know the technical term for it, but you use a fork), certainly the easiest method.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do in our home. Once you have the dough recipe down, remember, your possibilities are endless. How will you fill your pasties?

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Cornish Pasty

Makes 8 pasties

Prep: 45 minutes  Bake: 35 – 40 minutes

*Allow at least two hours for the dough to sit in the fridge

Pasty Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks cold vegan butter (I like to use Earth Balance), separated into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup of ice water

Filling ingredients:

  • 3 small raw potatoes, cut into small 1/4″ chunks
  • 2 medium size carrots, cut into small 1/4″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • (Optional Spices) garlic, cumin, and cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

*Remember, the dough needs at least two hours to sit in the fridge. I hate it when I start a recipe and learn halfway through that my dough needs to be refrigerated.

  1. In a food processor, add flour, salt, and butter chunks. Pulse until the flour and butter have become course and look like cornmeal. Make sure there isn’t any flour that has not been blended in. If so, use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour and then pulse the processor a few more times.
  2. Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 a cup of water over the mixture. Begin folding the mixture back and forth with your rubber spatula until the dough starts to come together. Then with clean hands knead the dough. If the dough is still too dry add more water, one table-spoon at a time.
  3. Once the dough has come together, divide it in half and form into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for no less than two hours or up to 3 days.
  4. While you’re waiting for the dough to chill, add the chopped potatoes, chopped carrots, and peas to a mixing bowl. Add seasoning and then toss to coat. Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. On a floured surface (I use my large cutting board), lay out the first disk. Pat it down so it is flat and level. Next, sprinkle some flour on a sharp chopping knife, then cut the dough down the center vertically, and across the center horizontally, so you have four equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
  6. Reflour your work surface and a rolling-pin. Set aside a saucer of water. Place one of the balls of dough in the center of your work space and then begin rolling it, with a rolling-pin, into a large circle, about 1/8″ thick.
  7. Using a one tablespoon measuring spoon, add the filling one tablespoon at a time. I can usually fit 3-4 tablespoons into my pasties.
  8. With your fingers or a basting brush, add water to edges of the dough (about 1/4″). You do not want it too wet, just enough for the edges to come together to create a seal. Now fold the dough over the filling and line up the edges to create a seal. Seal options: Decisions Decisions! Here are two options: Option 1: The fork method and the easiest. Once you’ve lined up the edges press down on them with a fork and done. For a little extra strength, to keep the edges from breaking, I will fold the edges (this makes them thicker) then I will press the edges down with a fork. This method makes the pasties look like cute little pies. Option 2: The spiral. This my personal favorite, because it makes this cheap pastry look like something that came straight from the local bakery. After the edges are lined up, moisten the top edge just a little. Then start at the end and twist inward. Use both of your hands, your right hand (if you’re right-handed, vis-versa if your left.) will start the spiral inward and your left hand will follow through and make it tight. When you’ve reached the other end there will be a little bit of a “tail” (extra dough from stretching) either add water to the “tail” and tuck it into the pasty or simply cut it off. If you’re nervous, you can tear a piece of dough from one of your balls and practice the spiral technique. It is pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
  9. Finally, cut slits into the top to make air vents. This can be a lot of fun. One time I cut our initials into the top.
  10. Place pasties on a greased baking pan and bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Once they are golden brown, allow them to cool for at least 5 minutes. Pasties can be eaten dry or dipped in a favorite dressing.

Enjoy!

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Chai Green Tea Smoothie

Welcome to my 20th blog post!

I had a friend request that I come up with a healthy chai latte recipe. Admittedly, I do not drink chai lattes too often. There are already so many good recipes for a vegan chai latte, so I decided to take the request and adapt it to my own morning routine. *I may decide to come up with my own latte recipe in the future, but I’ll have to think of something creative since it has been done so many times before.

My morning routine consists of vitamins, probiotics, and some kind of smoothie. My smoothie is usually made up of almond milk, maca, and either superfood powder, protein powder, or both. It’s nice to mix things up once in a while, which is why I am so excited to share this recipe.

If you like chai, this is the smoothie recipe for you. I combine chai spices with a matcha tea powder for a refreshing and energizing boost to any morning.

*Continue reading after the recipe to see my coffee hutch repurpose and to learn some new repurposing tips*

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Chai Green Tea Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 2 tsp Matcha powder
  • 1 tsp Chai spice (Chai spice recipe below)
  • 1 cup Spinach
  • 1 tbsp Chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp Almond butter or Peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp Agave Nectar

(Additional options: – Vanilla protein Powder – Super green powder – Kale – Ect.)

Chai Spice Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp Cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Allspice
  • 1/2 tbsp Ground cloves
  • 1/2 tbsp Nutmeg

*Mix all the spices together and store in a container.

Directions:

Add all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high until homogenous.

Enjoy!

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 A Trash to Treasure Hutch Repurpose

Back in November, my hubby brought home an old hutch for me to repurpose. It was so incredibly thoughtful for so many reasons. I tend to suffer from seasonal depression and keeping my hands busy on this hutch all winter was so helpful for fighting the winter blues. I can’t thank my hubby enough.

Here are the before and after images and the steps I took to give this beautiful piece of furniture life again. I decided to turn it into a beverage hutch… mostly for coffee and tea.

Step one was to detach the hardware and clean up the surfaces. There was also some really gross contact paper from the 1970’s in the drawers.

The next step was to strip off the varnish and the wood stain underneath. I Googled and used Pinterest for the best ways to do this. Most professionals unanimously agree that Citristrip is the best product for stripping varnish (Citristrip did not pay me to advertise their product. This is just my best recommendation.).

Unfortunatly, I discovered a layer of green paint underneath the varnish and stain. Really? Who uses woodstain over paint?! So I had to use the Citristrip a second time. The stripping agent worked very well. I was able to remove all of the layers.

  • Place a tarp on the ground before starting. This process is very messy!
  • Wear protective gloves. You do not want to get this stuff on your hand.
  • Brush a generous layer of Citristrip onto the surface, let it sit for about two hours.
  • Use a putty knife or a scraper to remove the varnish.
  • I also used a small wire brush to remove anything in grooves and cracks.
  • Keep a garbage bag and paper towels handy for clean up

There was a very sticky film left on my hutch after stripping and I couldn’t seem to clean it off with water or sand it down (it would just get caked onto the sand paper). So I went back to Google and found that Denatured Alcohol works very well for cleaning off stripped wood.                                                                         20171219_164759896058920.jpg

– Use gloves, a glass bowl and steel wool

– Wearing the gloves, pour the Denatured Alcohol into the glass bowl.

– Dip the steel wool into the Alcohol, let it soak and then scrub the wood. The alcohol evaporates very quickly but you can always use paper towels to wipe away excess moisture and grime.

*Denatured Alcohol is highly poisonous. Keep away from animals and children. Keep your hands protected.

After the wood is cleaned off, sand down for an extra smooth and clean surface. I used the alcohol again to clean the sawdust off the surface.

Hutch after it's been stripped

After a lot of elbow grease, my hutch was finally ready for it’s makeover. I hit Google again to try to find the best paint for wood furniture repurpose. I really did find THE BEST paint, General Finishes Milk Paint. (General Finishes did not pay for this advertisment. This is just my best recommendation. Although, this paint is so amazing that I would gladly advertise for them if they ever asked.) This paint is smooth and clean. It has the chalky finish of chalk paint, but it goes on more like a stain. I didn’t want to lose that beautiful chalky finish but I wanted to add a protective coat knowing that this hutch would see a lot of activity.  I ordered General Finishes Flat out Flat, another great product! It gives my hutch the protection it needs without taking away from the chalky finish that makes it so beautiful.

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I also added a wood stain and stencil to the countertop of the hutch. Click on the picture to read about how to revamp your old tired furniture by adding a fun stencil.

Now for the fun part, embelishments. Copper is very trendy right now and I am all about it, so I went with copper details. Copper ceiling tiles for the backboard as well as copper hindges and knobs!

Lastly I added a decorative molding piece (Found at the craft store) to the center. Then it was finally time to add it to my kitchen.

Completed repurposed hutch

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This has been my biggest repurposing project yet. It came out exactly how I imagined it should look. What a great feeling to put a lot of energy and time into doing something right and have it be a success. I have a lot of ideas for future repurposing projects and now I know how great it can be for dealing with the winter blues!

 

Zesty Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

I do not have much of a sweet tooth. I have more of what I like to call a “salty tooth”. There are so many amazing vegan dessert options from tiramisu to cheese cake. It’s very impressive! While I am glad to have the options available, nothing can ever seem to beat chips and salsa; I’ll pick it every time.

There is however, one single dessert that I have never been able to turn down. Chocolate, specifically chocolate chip cookies. There are literally thousands of recipes for chocolate chip cookies, so I was posed with the challenge of how to make mine different and this amazingly delicious recipe is what I “cooked up”.

Zesty orange and almond extract; It’s a subtle difference, but it adds a fun and yummy twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. My hubby said it tastes a lot like the chocolate oranges they sell around Christmas time.

*Continue after my recipe to read about my first experience teaching food styling and lighting.

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Zesty Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 flax eggs (1 flax egg = 1TBS flaxseed meal + 2.5TBS water. Mix together and let it sit for 10 minutes)
  • 1 cup vegan butter (Softened)
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp juice squeezed from an orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • zest from half and orange
  • 1 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (72% cocoa or higher)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix together and make a well in the center.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, Whisk together the flax egg, butter, sugars, orange juice, extracts, and zest.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the center well of the dry mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula. Then fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon for small cookies, use a 2 tablespoon measuring spoon for larger cookies. Using your measuring spoon, scoop up cookie dough and place the rounded dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Place the rounded dough about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10 – 11 minutes. Then take the baking sheet out of the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a rack. *I found that during the cooling process, the chocolate chips were hardening on the baking pan which was causing the cookies to stick. If this happens, grease the pan very lightly with coconut oil. Too much coconut oil will make the cookies essentially “melt”.*

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Being a guest teacher

I was asked last month to be a guest speaker/teacher for a high school art class at the school where I work. I was excited and quite nervous. Of course I was excited to share my passion for food and photography, but nervous all the same to get up in front of teenagers and talk about this great love of mine. The reasons I started taking pictures of my food to begin with was because I was sick of talking about my lifestyle and wanted the pictures to do the talking for me. The pressure was on.

On day one I spoke about myself and what I do, why I do it (see my “About me” page to read my personal story) and why I love it. The oddest part of the experience was having to get up in front of people who have grown up in a mid-western rural farm community and explain vegan art. Lucky for me, this group of teenagers seemed to have good heads on their shoulders. They showed a genuine interest and asked respectful questions.

On day two, I brought them homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies to take pictures of and of course, eat when they were done with their pictures. I also brought in most of my props and tools. I gave them free reign to style their picture the way they imagined it, but I did move around the room to try to give lighting advice. I returned the next day for finalized pictures and then editing. The results were pretty impressive.

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I was honestly as prepared as I could have been for teaching my first food styling class and I think it went rather well. The students were very respectful and fun to work with. I am so thankful for this experience. It was a perfect learning experience for any future teaching opportunities that may present themselves in the future.

SW Sweet Potato Hors d’oeuvres

First of all, my apologies for not updating my blog in over a month, I have really missed it! My February calendar was packed and then my oven broke, also breaking my heart a little. I had to make stove-top dinners for two weeks! Good thing my hubby and I love stir-fry.

I am excited to share this week’s recipe because I’m not just sharing one recipe; I am sharing three recipes that when put together, make one delicious appetizer. You can take one of the recipes and try it alone if you wish too.

I feel like I am constantly saying, “Oh that food is my favorite!”; I say it so often and about so many different kinds of food that I honestly don’t even know what my true favorite is anymore. I bring this confession up because I love southwestern food! I always have, when I was a kid I tried to put salsa and ranch on everything! Then I discovered guacamole and a whole new love affair was born. This recipe is a southwestern style hors d’oeuvre with all of those wonderful flavors I’ve loved since I was a child.

*Keep scrolling to read about my visit to The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.

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Southwestern Sweet Potato Hors d’oeuvres

Prep time: 30 – 35 minutes (unless you have a chopper or food slicer, that’ll cut your time in half.)

Makes 30 – 40 (a rough estimate because it depends on the size of the sweet potato)
Hors d’oeuvres Ingredients:

  • 3 log shaped sweet potatoes (This is my recommendation if you want all your hors d’oeuvres to resemble the same size.)
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil or cooking spray

Guacamole Ingredients:

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 vine ripe tomato seeded and chopped
  • half a red onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and loosely chopped
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tsp. of minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. of finely chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Pico de gallo Ingredients:

  • 3 vine tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • half a red onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
  • juice from half a lime
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt and garlic to taste

Directions:

  1. Set the oven heat to 450º and grease 1-2 baking sheets in olive oil or cooking spray
  2. Slice the sweet potatoes 1/8 inch thick and place them flat on the baking sheets
  3. When the oven is ready, place the baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes pull out the baking sheets and flip the potato slices. Then, place back into the oven and bake for another 5 – 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you want them to get tender, but not crispy or burned.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the guacamole and pico de gallo (instructions below).
  5. Assembling: Place the sweet potato slices on your serving platter. Add a dollop of guacamole to each slice, then top the guacamole with a teaspoon of Pico de gallo. If you’re entertaining and want the hors d’oeuvres to look even fancier, garnish with fresh cilantro.

*Always be prepared. You may just find you have left over guacamole and/or pico de gallo, imagine the possibilities! Tacos, burritos or southwest salad!!! Or maybe a yummy snack with tortilla chips. Enjoy!
Guacamole Directions:

  1. Prepare the ingredients (i.e. chopping)
  2. In a food processor add minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Blend on high for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the avocados. The best way to do this is to slice vertically (avoid slicing through the seed), then squeeze the avocado into the processor (when you squeeze a ripe avocado the seed should pop right out.). Also add the lime juice squeezed from a whole lime and a pinch of salt. Blend in the processor until it is creamy and smooth.
  4. Transfer the avocado mixture to a bowl ( can be a serving bowl or a storage container).
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped red onion. Fold them into the avocado mixture. Adjust the taste with a little more salt or lime juice.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator or serve immediately.

*Even with the lime juice, guacamole does not last long. You’ll want to eat this within one to two days.
Directions for the Pico de gallo:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and toss until the tomatoes and onions are coated evenly. Adjust taste to your liking.

*We love spicy food in our house, which is why I use Jalapeño. But if you are sensitive to spicy foods you can still make these recipes delicious and to your liking. Leave out the Jalapeño. Leave as is or add whatever you want.I recommend adding some cubed mango to the Pico de gallo. Mango is such a good complement to southwestern foods.

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The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

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The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a real treasure that can be found in one of the most unexpected places; In the middle of nowhere, tucked between the valley of the surrounding mountains of western Montana. I had come across gorgeous pictures of this place a few years ago and knew it was going to be one of those places I just had to visit and see with my own eyes. My hubby and I recently made the decision to leave Montana within the year, so I honestly never thought I’d get the chance to visit the garden.

My friend and I had an engagement that took us to western Montana, to a town only 20 minutes away from the Ewan Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. When we were done with our engagement, I convinced her that this was a place she would not regret visiting.

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Here is an excerpt from their website http://www.ewambuddhagarden.org/on the purpose of this special place.

“Dedicated as an International Peace Center, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas supports people in cultivating inner peace and in preserving the ancient culture of Tibet. The mission of the Garden is to provide visitors of all faiths with an opportunity to generate profound merit, to reduce global negativities, and to bring about lasting peace. Through the use of the ancient symbols of Buddhism, the Garden awakens one’s natural inner qualities of joy, wisdom, and compassion.” – the Ewam Buddha Garden website.

I am not a Buddhist, but I have studied Buddhism a bit and I have so much respect for their culture and beliefs. Most of my favorite quotes come from the Dalai Lama himself.

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.” – Dalai Lama

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When we pulled up, they hadn’t yet opened their gates. So we sat and patiently waited while one of the kind workers came to open the gate and welcome us. I am already completely in love with the mountains and the mountains surround the garden were breath taking. It is the perfect place to find peace.

It was a chilly day with lots of snow and ice on the ground. The meditation pond was frozen over. There was a thick fog rolling in over the mountains and yet it was stunning. I didn’t care that my fingers and toes were starting to freeze, I just drank in the sights. I can’t imagine the kind of beauty inside and out of the garden during late spring and summer.

Here are some more sights from the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.

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Goulash a perfect winter meal

A handful of really good stew recipes to help get through winter is a must. Goulash is a Hungarian recipe, its strongest flavor is paprika and it is the perfect cozy dinner for these chilly winter nights.

Continue scrolling after the recipe to find my favorite tip for revamping old furniture.

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Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 1 and 1/2 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cans of kidney beans, drain and rinsed
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 3 TBS of flour
  • 24 ounces of vegetable broth
  • 10 ounces of mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 TBS of paprika
  • 3 TBS of tomato paste
  • 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • pasta for serving

*Other recommended serving toppings: Hot sauce and/or sour cream

Another great addition to this meal would be my recipe for Irish Soda Bread

Directions:

  1. In a large sauce pot, heat two TBS of olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and celery, cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add flour then toss to coat veggies.
  2. Pour vegetable broth into the pot while stirring. Stir constantly until thick and bubbling.
  3. Next add the kidney beans, chopped mushrooms, paprika, and tomato paste. Set to simmer for 1 hour. After an hour add the chopped red pepper and cook for another twenty minutes.
  4. The last 10 – 15 minutes of the stew simmering, cook the pasta.
  5. When the stew is ready add pasta to the bottom of a bowl then ladle the goulash over top. *I like to add hot sauce to the top of mine for some extra flavor, you can also serve it with dairy-free sour cream. Enjoy!

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How to easily create your own image transfer on furniture

I have been working on a cabinet re-purpose project for a few months now. It is not complete yet, but through the process I learned a creative and easy way to add beautiful transfer prints to furniture that look like something you would over pay for at a home decor store. It turned out so much better than I could have hoped and now I want to stencil everything in my home! It’s so easy, anyone can do it. So here are the steps to revamping your furniture.

  1. Find a image you want to use

I started off by searching transfer prints that I liked on Pinterest. This is the website where I found the free transfer image that I used https://thegraphicsfairy.com/best-printable-transfers-furniture/

Print out the image to the size you want. This may require a little tech knowledge. You can also print the image large so that it prints out on a multiple sheets. if you have a copier at work, maybe you can use the copier to enlarge your image.

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2. Make sure you have the correct size print that you want. Hold it up to the item you’ll be transferring it to. Once your measurements are all sorted, take a oil pastel crayon or piece of chalk (you’ll want it to be colored) and color the back of your print, covering as much of it as possible. I used oil pastel, that’s my strongest recommendation, chalk might be a little messier.

oi pastel on the back of a transfer image

3. Place the print on the item you’re transferring the image to, image side up. Make sure it is exactly where you want it and tape it in down with painters tape to secure it. Once you start transferring the image you do not want it to move.

4. Use a ball point pen to trace over every line on your image. Take a peek under your page every once in a while to make sure it’s transferring properly. After you’ve traced over every image you should have an exact outline of your image.

5. Paint in your image. I recommend using acrylic paint and a thin paint brush. Pick the paint colors you want to use and paint over and in between the lines of your transferred image. Use your original image for referencing.

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Once the paint is dry you may be done, but here’s how I finished off my transfer.

  • After the paint dried I went over the image with a fine sand paper and lightly distressed the image to create a vintage look.
  • I cleaned off the dust from sanding and painted over the image with a high gloss varnish. My image was transferred onto a cabinet top that I expect to see a lot of activity so I gave it 3 coats of varnish.

The cabinet itself is not finished but here is the completed image transfer.

 

Irish soda bread

Last year I made Irish soda bread for the first time and I really enjoyed it. It’s not sweet like corn bread, but it does have a subtle sweetness to it; which allows it to be used in a variety of ways. It get’s its name from the baking soda in it that is used as leavening agent instead of traditional yeast. It also bakes faster than yeast bread.

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My favorite way to eat Irish soda bread is with either a hearty vegetable stew or chili. It makes for some great comfort food; especially while being cooped up inside during a long freezing winter.

Another yummy way to enjoy it is toasted with a generous spread of marmalade or peanut butter. My hubby will even just eat it plain for a snack. What is your favorite way to eat Irish Soda Bread?

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Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 TBS of raw sugar
  • 4 TBS of vegan butter (Melted)
  • 1 flax egg ( 1 TBS ground flax seed + 2.5 TBS of water. Mix and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 1 1/2 Cups of vegan buttermilk ( 1 1/2 Cups of almond milk mixed with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes)

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 425º and grease a 9” round baking dish.
    2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Once the dry ingredients are all mixed in, make a well in the center. Add the wet ingredients to the well and then begin to fold it into a dough with either a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
    3. Once the ingredients are mixed in, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands until the dough has completely come together. Then form the dough into a ball.
    4. Place the dough onto the prepared baking pan and score an X (about a half inch thick) through the top center with a knife. Sprinkle a dusting of flour on top.
    5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350º and bake for another 40 minutes. You want the final color to be a golden brown.
    6. Let cool and enjoy!

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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.