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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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.