Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies

Happy FIRST day of FALL!

Little factoid about me? Fall is hands down my absolute favoritst time of year. SO much my favorite that I actually make up words to describe how utterly fantabulous it is. (It's OK if I make up words, I was an English major, so when we graduate we receive a card that allows us to do this).

No but for reals, we're all giddy with excitement for the changing colors, the fall smells, the bonfires, football games with friends, haunted hayrides and pumpkin-infused everything!

But before we bust out all things pumpkin, which, well, we've done a lot around here, I've got one fabulous cookie up my sleeve that says farewell to summer and all of its awesomeness, while welcoming fall with a warm bear hug.

Now there's one trick about this recipe. In order to give it the shazam it needs, you're going to have to hop on the internet and buy something you may not have bought in a very, very long time. Vegan butterscotch chips. Yes, they exist, yes they're worth the $5 price tag for a 10-ounce jar. Don't overthink it. I usually order these with a bit batch of stuff from VeganEssentials when getting all my Christmas Cookie needs (yes, I do that in like, September. I'm prepared!)

The butterscotch is essential in this recipe as it plays off the subtle coconut notes and then gives in to a chocolate drizzle in the most perfect way EVER. Seriously, you're so welcome for this awesome little cookie.

Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies 
(Makes 24 smallish, but oh-so-good cookies)
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
10-ounce jar vegan butterscotch chips
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened vegan butter, sugar and applesauce. Add salt, baking powder and coconut flakes. Stir in flour. Roll cookie dough into one-inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Squish them down a little bit and make an indent in the middle with your thumb (they should still be about 1/2 inch thick or a little less when you are done with them, don't squish them flat!) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. 

Allow to cool on a rack. Once cookies are cool, melt the vegan butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on small increments, taking out and stirring frequently (you don't want to overcook them!) Using a small spoon (or a baby one if you have it handy!), smooth melted butterscoth chips into the cookies' indentations. Allow to cool. 

To give these cookies some serious pizzazz, melt vegan chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl (the same way you did the butterscotch chips). Spoon melted chocolate into a ziplock bag and cut a small tip off one corner. Squeeze chocolate over cookie in a zigzag pattern. 

Enjoy. Share. Impress. Hug fall. These cookies do it all. (I also use my English degree to rhyme). 

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Soy. Carbs. Dairy. Meat. Plastic water bottles left in the hot car. High fructose corn syrup. Dirty produce. Cooked food. Vitamins. Microwaved foods. Your cell phone. Foods with more than five ingredients. Sugar. Caffeine. Diet soda. The chemicals in your cleaners. The chemicals in your make up. Bug spray. Medicine. Birth control. Not taking birth control. Not having babies. Protein shakes. Energy drinks. Fatty foods. Greasy foods.

If you listen to someone somewhere, one of these things is going to kill you. Thanks to Dr. Google and its magical powers, we're using the internet to not only diagnose our kiddos fevers and coughs, but to become doctors, research scientists and dietitians.

Every once and a while a few of you appear on my blog. Letting me know "why I'm overweight" and what precisely I'm doing wrong (because clearly, there's no way I am in control of how I look or am choosing to look like this. Why on Earth would anyone want to be on the thicker side?) Thankfully, the self-proclaimed nutrition experts are there to let me know where I went astray. Clearly, it's the fake soy meat we eat. And the vegan cheese. The vegan cheese that's free of that evil, evil soy, but contains other items that MUST be dangerous. Or sometimes, it's because I splurge when I'm out at a restaurant and have a Coke. Don't I realize what soda is going to do to me? Thankfully, you're there, trusty internet gurus, letting me know the DEEP, DEEP error of my way.

There's probably something you should know about me. I'm not a fan of people who assume things. Particularly, I don't like people who assume things about my life, or anyone else's for that matter, barring they don't actually know the person.

Something else you should know about me? I AM a big fan of MODERATION. Recently, I've had a few naysayers on my blog calling me irresponsible for having recipes with soy-based meats in them. I am by no means a nutritionist, dietitian or doctor. I don't pretend to be. Most of you aren't either. So let's leave it to the professionals shall we?

One reader actually informed me they can tell that I'm unhealthy because of my eyes and that I don't have a "glow." While I appreciate the concern, I'm going to continue to listen to my doctors (who beg to differ on your opinion of healthy) and not some "anonymous" poster. If you don't like soy meats, don't use them. I will admit this: in our household, we do eat the occasional veggie dog from time to time.

We don't eat seven of them a day and then have some fake chicken nuggets followed up by some soy burgers. That's not because I think soy meats specifically are going to kill me, it's because I think consuming, using too much of anything isn't good for you. Kind of like carbs. I love me some carbs. But if all I ate every single day was carbs, I'd be incredibly unhealthy. If someone sat around eating strictly meat all day for the rest of their life, their cholesterol may not be the best. Too much of anything is usually not a good thing. MODERATION.

Take for example our meal plan this week: we had mushroom barley soup and pretzel rolls for two days, lentil loaf with a veggie and mashed potatoes, an eggplant stirfry, big salads with chick peas and one day we had vegan meatball subs. For lunch, we had peanut butters and jelly, big bowls of broccoli or cauliflower, three bean salads and one day a veggie dog (that did not fall on vegan meatball sub day). Breakfast consisted of lentil sausage links, oatmeal, bananas or coconut yogurt. So out of 21 possible meals in the week, we consumed a fake "meat" product for two of them. TWO.

So please, please don't try to tell me why I'm chubby. Or that I'm "endangering" my children by letting them have a veggie dog. Instead, why don't you let ME do the talking about my life and if you like it, you can hang out and join the fun. And if you don't like it, you can move along to "helping" the next person.

P.S. It's the two miles on the treadmill and my morning coffee that are making me chubby, I know it!

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Kickstart your fall with this vegan lasagna soup!

In case you haven't heard of it, September is the Vegan Month of Food! For the last three years I've participated in it and it has been a blast. Unforunately this year, because of vacation, softball, work, home life, it just wasn't in the cards for me to sign up and give it my all.

But fear not - I've still got some killer recipes headed your way that I've been holding onto for a while. I kicked it off with a killer recipe for vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes, which, you might want to run out and make now if you haven't already. Because they're that good.

This week I'm going to let you in on my latest secret - vegan lasagna soup. You may not know this about me, but I'm a fan of making soups out of complicated casseroles and dinners. What can I say? I adore lasagna, but all that layering, saucing and noodling just makes me go bonkers. So after having a lasagna craving for the last few weeks, I decided it was time to address it.

And because fall is just a week away, this might just be the perfect hearty soup to help you welcome it's perfect temperatures, hoodies, leggings and cute boots with open arms (Warning: I'm pro-leggings. As long as you've got something to long on top to cover those unseemly lines, I say rock the leggings like pants all ya want. And I do).

This soup is super delicious. And hearty. And so so so filling. And I promise you'll want to make it again. And again. And maybe again.

Vegan lasagna soup
(serves 8-10)
1/2 box (or 8 ounces) of your favorite pasta
1 LARGE (we're talking the 28oz variety) can of diced tomatoes
1 24-oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade recipe, whatever floats your boat)
2 cups white sauce (see recipe below)
1 package of Gimme Lean vegan sausage
1 8-oz package of mushrooms (white or baby bella, whatevs)
1 large sweet onion, diced up
1 small bag frozen carrots (cut in coins)
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 big can (46 oz) vegetable juice, we opt for the low sodium variety
1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (we used Daiya)
1 TBS Italian seasoning
1 TBS minced garlic
Splash of olive oil for sauteing

White sauce ingredients & instructions:
2 TBS vegan butter
4 TBS all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups plain almond milk

Melt vegan butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Once it's melted, stir in all purpose flour. Whisk until it makes a runny paste. Whisk in plain almond milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and then lower heat to a simmer and stir, for three to four minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Prepare first and set aside.

Soup instructions:
In a large pot, bring vegetable juice to a boil. Add pasta and reduce to medium heat, stirring consistently so the pasta doesn't stick. Add carrots. Tear Gimme Lean vegan sausage into small chunks and add to pasta and vegetable juice. Try to keep your hands damp as it helps to keep sausage from sticking to you.

In a large skillet, saute kale and garlic in a little olive oil on medium heat for five-seven minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another five minutes. Add entire contents of this skillet into soup mixture. Take your white sauce and add it to the soup mixture along with spaghetti sauce. Add diced onion and Italian seasoning. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in one cup of Daiya vegan cheese. Cook for another five minutes and you're DONE!

You can "garnish" this soup with more Daiya shreds, vegan parm or vegan ricotta (Tofutti makes a pretty solid one!), or serve all by it's lonesome and prepare to have your socks rocked.

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Pear Bear's LAST first day of preschool

It's hard to believe my little girl is in her last year of preschool. There are some days I look at her and can't quite wrap my brain around how we made this amazing, perfect, funny, sweet, witty, beautiful little human being. I mean seriously, how did we?

And how is it even remotely possible that she's four? Next year I'll be shipping her off to kindergarten, and after that - like real life school. I'm SO not.ready.for.this.

It's times like this when it really starts to hit you. Do my kiddos rattle my patience every now and again? Of course, that's what little kids do. They love hard. They play hard. And they go super hard when driving you bonkers.

They do everything HARD ... which is what makes them simple and a complete enigma all in one.

Pearyn was excited to "go back to school." Sure, she's been attending her regular sessions throughout summer anyhow, but this is the time of year when she gets another "teacher" and goes to a "classrom" for two hours a day.

We like to get her pumped up for school, so we take her "back to school" shopping and let her pick out a new outfit, some new super awesome markers, crayons and a coloring book or two. What can I say, I'm a sucker for new school supplies. Even before I had kiddos, I still went "back to school" shopping for notebooks and pens, mainly because I just really dig that stuff.

The night before she didn't want to go to sleep - of course. So our "first day of preK" got off to a slightly bumpy start. It didn't help that being the obsessive mom that I am, I was up until some obscenely late time trying to put together Pear's pinterest-inspired back to school info board. It's super cute, wasn't THAT hard to put together, I just obsessed over the writing a lot more than I should have.

Not sure what I'm talking about? You can do it with whatever you want, but I used a dry erase board, then you make a bunch of cute pictures and write the date, school, grade and your kiddos name, not to mention tons of awesome facts about them (like what they want to be when they grow up or their favorite food).

Then, each year, you ask them the same stuff and watch how their answers evolve. Cute, right?

Once we finally stopped taking photos and got her to school (seven minutes late, NATURALLY), it was all a blur. She got to meet the class pet (a fish!), find her name to put up on the wall and then had to hang her bag up, wash her hands, conquer the world, the usual.

Regardless, she had an awesome day and was beaming when I picked her up. This little girl adores learning in pretty much any capacity, except for T-ball, don't try to teach her T-ball.

For her lunch she wanted a vegan cheese sandwich, in the shape of a school bus, of course, but it was so worth it to hear her rave about how cool it was and how she'd eat anything if it was in the shape of a bus.

She's already finished her second week and is coming home asking to do more. She wants to do chores to earn an "allowance" and she wants to learn to read everything, from books to the time. It's amazing to be able to see the different stages of learning both Pear and Brae are in. They're equally inquisitive and absorbing everything they possibly can, and yet, they're still more than two years apart.

Pearyn has also moved onto gymnastics, after a little trial and error we've found a place we really like, so I guess the rest is up to her! She's so excited to be doing her "big girl things."

I just wish I could keep her my little girl for a little while longer.

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Vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes, your next party touchdown

So we're doing something different this year in the Chubby Vegan abode. Last year, both Chubby Vegan dad and I did a fantasy football league, but they weren't together and he was far more serious than I was. This year, we've started a couples fantasy football league amongst our friends and while it just started, I have a feeling it's going to be quite the ride. 

For those of you not consumed by football or interested in it merely because you want to beat all your favorite couple friends, last night was the opening game of football season.

Seattle and Green Bay faced off, which mean my running back, kicker and defensive special team were all playing. Needless to say I ended up with some pretty sweet points.

And not only were my fantasy points sweet, the vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes I made to celebrate the beginning of football season surpassed that.

Let me repeat that one more time: vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes.


Yeah, don't tell anyone, but I'm not really sure if I actually like football, or if I just like an excuse to bake delicious treats, partake in some pumpkin adult beverages and get together with friends.

Needless to say these bad boys were a hit.

And just in face you're not a football fan either, I give you full permission to makes these cupcakes JUST BECAUSE. (Not that you need permission. Or a reason. JUST DO IT!)

Vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes
(makes one dozen)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Frosting ingredients:
1 stick vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 TBS vanilla coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
(You can add a few drops of food coloring if you want, we purchase ours from a nearby natural parenting store, it's locally made, natural and vegan)

Candied 'bacon' bits: 
1 ounce Bac'Uns (vegan bacon bits)
2 TBS pure maple syrup
2 TBS brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon

Cupcake directions:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in almond milk and applesauce. Add vanilla and maple extract. Stir in softened vegan butter and maple syrup. Whip with hand or stand mixer on high for two minutes. Pour into cupcake wrappers and fill a little over half full. Bake for 20 minutes. 

While the cupcakes are baking, in a small skillet on medium heat, saute the vegan bacon bits, maple syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir frequently and cook for three to four minutes. The mixture will be gooey and smokey smelling.

Frosting Directions:
Soften the vegan butter (soften, not melt) and then in a medium bowl, mix butter, vanilla coconut milk and extract. Blend in powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Stick in the fridge to thicken up for an hour. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled, either spread or pipe on the frosting. Top with the candied bacon bits. Listen to everyone rave about how delicious they are! 

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